Senators move to change names of military bases, set stage for showdown with Trump
uschools/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee approved a new amendment that would require military bases named after Confederate soldiers to change their names — setting senators on a collision course with President Donald Trump.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was added to the 2021 Defense Authorization Bill by a committee vote behind closed doors Wednesday night. It gives the Department of Defense three years to implement new names for installations bearing the names of Confederate soldiers, and also requires the Pentagon to remove Confederate names and symbols from other military properties.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump — responding to the U.S. Army indicating it would be open to a conversation about changing the names of 10 of its bases — announced his opposition to renaming those military bases in a tweet.
“My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he tweeted. “Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”
During a press conference Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president would not sign a defense reauthorization bill that included the requirement for bases to change their names.
On Thursday, as news broke of the committee’s decision to adopt Warren’s amendment, Trump doubled down and called on Republican senators to oppose the change.
“Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars,” Trump tweeted. “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!”
But some Republican senators on Thursday said they back the amendment and — though it is not entirely clear which senators voted in favor of the amendment, those who were present for the committee vote said it had support from both sides of the aisle.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R- S.D., serves on the Armed Services Committee and said Thursday he believes changing the name of bases would be a “step in the right direction.”
“I agree with the president that we don’t want to forget our history, we don’t want to forget what’s happened in the past,” Rounds said. “But at the same time that doesn’t mean that we should continue with those bases with the names of individuals who fought against our country.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also cautioned against “rewriting history” but said he’s open to reviewing the names of bases.
“I think it’s always appropriate to review the people and the places that we honor to see if they fit the context of the times in which we live,” Alexander said.
The most powerful Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also signaled he could support the changes. During a press conference Thursday he said he was “not opposed” to the idea.
Trump has fervently argued that changing the names does a disservice to the history of the nation.
On Thursday, he tweeted, “THOSE THAT DENY THEIR HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT!”
Some Republicans are backing that view point.
“I oppose the amendment, I voted no on it, and I spoke against it in the committee and voiced my reservations for it,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “I just don’t think that Congress mandating that these be renamed and attempting to erase that part of our history is a way that you deal with that history.”
And, during a press call with reporters that was reported on by Roll Call, Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Armed Services committee, indicated he would try to weaken the language approved by his committee Wednesday.
On the call, Inhofe reportedly said he wanted to make changing installations’ names an option rather than a requirement and that he would try to add language allowing the communities that are home to the bases to weigh in before any monikers are changed.
The proposal enjoys robust support from Democrats, including the number two Senate Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who said on Thursday that the amendment “is part of the reckoning and it’s long overdue.”
Cries for a renewed look at the names of bases follow the killing of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests across the country and around the world.
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