White House threatens veto of defense bill over Confederate provision

The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto annual defense policy legislation in part because it includes a provision that would direct the Pentagon to rename military bases currently named after Confederate leaders.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a statement hours before a House vote on the massive defense policy bill expressing “serious concerns” about multiple provisions of the bill. The White House said that if the bill were presented to President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE in its current form, “his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it.” 

“The Administration strongly objects to section 2829, which would require renaming of certain military institutions,” the statement reads. “It also has serious concerns about provisions of the bill that seek to micromanage aspects of the executive branch’s authority, impose highly prescriptive limitations on the use of funds for Afghanistan, and otherwise constrain the President’s authority to protect national security interests.”

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The White House said that many of the provisions “would pose significant challenges” to the administration’s implementation of its national defense strategy.

Trump has previously expressed opposition to the renaming of bases named after Confederate leaders — a position that put him at odds with Pentagon leaders — and has also defended flying the Confederate flag as “freedom of speech.” Trump has described the bases named for Confederate leaders as a part of American history.

The president threatened to veto the bill, formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act, in a tweet earlier this month. In an interview with Fox News over the weekend, Trump appeared to soften his position, saying that he “might” veto the bill.

The statement released Tuesday describes the provision as “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct,” pointing to ongoing efforts to rename or topple federal monuments and memorials.

“President Trump has been clear in his opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to rewrite history and to displace the enduring legacy of the American Revolution with a new left-wing cultural revolution,” the OMB statement reads.

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There are 10 Army bases around the United States, all of which are located in Southern states, named for Confederate military officers: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

The White House took issue with several other provisions of the legislation, including one that would constrain Trump’s ability to withdraw American troops from Germany and another that would limit Trump’s efforts to scale back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

The $740.5 billion House bill was approved unanimously by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month. The veto threat came shortly before the full House was slated to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon. The measure is expected to pass.