House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year

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The House Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from bases and other property within one year.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), was approved 33-23 as the committee considers its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The vote fell largely along party lines, with just Bacon and Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) crossing party lines to support it.

“A vast majority of Americans support this, a vast majority of members of Congress support this, and a vast majority of senior leadership, both civilian and military, at the Department of Defense and the service components seek this change,” Brown said. “We’re grappling with the country’s painful past and must acknowledge that the history and cause of the Confederacy is centered on slavery and oppression. Highly visible instances of racial violence and racism have underscored the immediate need for change.”

The committee vote comes after President Trump threatened to veto the NDAA if it includes a requirement to rename bases.

“I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!” Trump tweeted late Tuesday night.

Trump was referring to an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), that is in the Senate’s version of the NDAA. Warren’s amendment, which was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a voice vote, would require the bases be renamed within three years.

The debate over Confederate symbols and names has been reignited amid nationwide protests on racial injustices sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

The Army has 10 bases named for Confederate military generals and a colonel. The service said last month it was open to renaming the bases, but days later Trump said he would “not even consider” doing so.

In addition to requiring military property be renamed in a year, the Brown-Bacon amendment would require the Pentagon to identify which properties to rename within 60 days.

It would also require a report within 90 days on the process the Pentagon will use to choose new names, an explanation of whether the Pentagon will create an advisory panel to guide the process, a description of how it will get public input on the names, and a timeline for the renaming consistent with the one-year deadline.

The committee also shot down an amendment from Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), the top Republican on the committee, that would have softened the Brown-Bacon amendment by extending the timeline to two years and given community boards the ability to opt out of changing names, among other differences. The committee voted largely along party lines, 23-33 against Thornberry’s proposal.

Thornberry argued his amendment would have allowed for greater local input on the issue.

“There’s been a lot of good that has come in recent weeks from a greater focus and increased understanding of lingering racial bias in this country,” Thornberry said. “Because we’re in the lawmaking business we tend to first turn to legal mandates. And sometimes that’s necessary, but sometimes rather than just decide ourselves and dictate to the country, if we can prod discussion, if we can encourage that sort of self examination, it’s going to have deeper and longer lasting effects.”

Updated at 11:25 p.m.

Tags Anthony Brown Confederate army bases Confederate statues Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren George Floyd George Floyd death George Floyd protests Mac Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act Paul Mitchell
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