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House Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names

House Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are backing a Senate-passed provision to rename military bases named after Confederates in three years as part of negotiations over the annual defense policy bill, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Friday.

The timeline is slower than the one-year deadline the House approved, but House Democrats adopting it as their negotiating stance puts Senate Republicans in the position of arguing against something they already approved.

“This is a simple provision that was in the Senate language,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Trump rails against Twitter in late night tweets The pandemic and a 'rainy day fund' for American charity MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters at the Capitol on Friday. “What we are insisting — this is the irony — the House is insisting that the conference report accept the Senate language.”

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The fate of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been an open question amid a standoff between Congress and Trump on a provision that would require the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from military bases and other property.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill, which both passed with large bipartisan majorities in July, include the requirement. The House’s language, which would require names to be changed in a year, was sponsored by Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing Esper, amid resignation talk, reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases MORE (D-Md.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

The Senate’s language, which has the three-year timeline, was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Warren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Biden's economic team gets mixed reviews from Senate Republicans MORE (D-Mass.) and approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a voice vote.

The language was added to the bills amid nationwide racial justice protests that reinvigorated an examination of America’s legacy of slavery. The Army has 10 bases named after Confederate military officers.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE has threatened to veto the NDAA over the requirement.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint House Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Okla.) has vowed to remove the requirement. But it is highly unusual for something that’s in both bills to be removed from the final version, and Inhofe has not explained how he expects to overcome bipartisan support for changing the names.

“We’re getting in the way of a lot of very important stuff over something that we all ought to support,” Smith said of delaying the Defense bill over the renaming.

“I mean, my god, if Mississippi can take down the Confederate flag off of their flag, then I think the United States Congress can agree that we shouldn't be naming military bases after people who rose up in armed rebellion against the United States.”

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE has floated the idea that Trump could drop his objection to stripping Confederate names from military bases if House Democrats agree to repeal a legal shield for internet companies known as Section 230.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have argued Section 230 allows social media companies to discriminate against conservative content. However, conservative content is often amplified on social media platforms. 

Smith, though, has indicated he does not believe Meadow’s idea — which would constitute a sweeping change of the law that shaped the modern internet in the waning days of Trump’s presidency — is a workable compromise.

“I think passing a defense bill is enormously important, and I want to find a way to get it done,” Smith said Friday. “And any sentence that starts with, 'Hey, I think we got a way to get this done,' I'm going to listen to how it ends. But I'm not sure this is the path.”