Defense

Senate Democrats push for shorter timeline on removing Confederate base names

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and dozens of other Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would require the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from military bases and other property within one year.

The bill sets a marker for Democrats ahead of the floor debate on the annual defense policy bill, which already includes a requirement for the Pentagon to rename Confederate-named assets on a longer timeline. Some Republicans are hoping to water down what’s already in the bill.

“Senate Democrats are putting forward legislation to change the names of our bases and other military assets within one year because we need to stop honoring this ugly legacy immediately,” Warren said in a statement Wednesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee “has already passed a version of my proposal in the annual defense bill — and Senate Republicans should make sure that bipartisan compromise stays intact,” she added.

Warren’s bill is co-sponsored by 35 Democrats, a majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

In a voice vote during its markup earlier this month, the committee passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sponsored by Warren that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other assets named after Confederate leaders within three years.

Specifically, the amendment would create a commission to come up with a plan for renaming the property and says the Pentagon “shall” implement the plan within three years.

The White House, though, has said President Trump would veto a defense bill that requires changing Confederate names. Trump himself has said he would “not even consider” renaming the 10 Army bases with Confederate monikers.

The idea of renaming the bases has divided Republicans. But those hoping to water down the language have an uphill climb, as passing an amendment on the Senate floor would likely require 60 votes, including Democratic support.

On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) unveiled a proposal he plans to introduce as an amendment when the NDAA hits the Senate floor that would remove the requirement that the Pentagon rename the installations.

Hawley’s amendment would also require the commission to work with state and local “stakeholders” to nominate alternative names and to report to Congress so lawmakers can make sure state and local views are “substantially reflected” in the commission’s recommendations. 

“This latest effort to unilaterally rename bases and remove war memorials, all behind closed doors, smacks of the cancel culture the Left wants to impose on the nation,” Hawley said in a statement.

The debate about Confederate names on military property comes amid nationwide protests against racial injustice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis late last month.

The protests have broadly led to debates about Confederate symbols as protesters tear down statues, local leaders order monuments removed and Congress grapples with how to handle such figures in the Capitol.

In the military, the Marine Corps and U.S. Forces Korea have banned the display of the Confederate battle flag. The Navy has also said it would ban the flag.

The Army said it was open to renaming its 10 bases with Confederate names before Trump tweeted his staunch opposition to doing so.

Tags Confederacy Confederate base names Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren George Floyd protests Josh Hawley

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