House chairman predicts approval for 'very strong' amendment to change Confederate-named bases

House chairman predicts approval for 'very strong' amendment to change Confederate-named bases

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is anticipating his panel will approve a "very strong" amendment to the annual defense policy bill requiring the Pentagon to rename bases and other properties that have Confederate names.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Wash.) also predicted at least some Republican support for the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) when the committee meets Wednesday to consider the bill.

“There's clearly strong support within the committee, and there are Republicans who support it as well, to make these name changes in a comprehensive way,” Smith said. “So I think we will pass out of committee a very strong provision to require the renaming of those bases probably within a year.”

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“I think this this is an important step, certainly not the only step, not going to fix everything, but it's a recognition that recognizing white supremacist history hurts, obviously, effort at true racial equality in our country,” Smith added.

The issue of military property named after Confederate leaders has emerged as a flash point amid the nationwide protests against racial injustices. Most high-profile, there are 10 Army bases named after Confederate military officers.

The Army said earlier this month it was open to renaming the bases, but days later President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE said he would “not even consider” doing so. The White House has also threatened to veto the NDAA if it includes a requirement to rename the bases.

The Senate’s version of the NDAA includes a requirement that the Pentagon rename bases and other property within three years. The provision was approved by voice vote when the Senate Armed Services Committee considered its version of the bill.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases Trump warns of defense bill veto over military base renaming amendment MORE (R-Mo.) has offered an amendment to strip the requirement from the Senate’s NDAA, but few, if any, amendments are expected to get a vote on the Senate floor as the chamber debates the bill this week.

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The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill is so far silent on the issue. A committee aide told reporters last week a decision was made to leave more controversial issues such as the base names to amendment votes in the committee and on the House floor.

Reps. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Md.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) have said they will offer an amendment to rename bases and other property in a year, though exact language is still being fine tuned.

Smith said Tuesday the amendment would require property be renamed by Oct. 1, 2021, as well as set “other timelines” he did not specify.

“There will be Republican support for that. How much? I don't know,” he said, suggesting they may consider a year too quick a timeline. “I do know that there's Republican sympathy for doing this, and there's a desire on their part to be able to vote in favor of it. So I know we'll have a good strong provision coming out of committee.”

On Monday, in his own conference call with reporters, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal MORE (Texas), would not explicitly state where he stands on the amendment, citing the fact that the exact language is still being worked out.

But he said bases’ local communities should be given ample say in the matter rather than lawmakers “making rash decisions in the heat of the moment.”

“I think most everybody is willing to move forward in some way,” Thornberry said. “It's a question of how and when and, for me, making sure that all of these folks who care about this, have an interest in this are heard from.”

“I just am always hesitant about Congress having a know-it-all attitude without even talking to the folks who live there,” he added.

“The country's eyes have been opened a lot on residual racism and evidence of it over the past several weeks. And in many ways, I think that's a healthy thing,” he continued, highlighting the Mississippi state legislature’s vote to remove the Confederate emblem from its flag. “So I think that's good, we just need to, again, not assume that we know everything in Washington better than the rest of the country.”