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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 SmithBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display 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 BrownCongressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' Lawmakers move to oust extremists from military Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack MORE (D-Md.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

The Senate’s language, which has the three-year timeline, was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax Sanders vows to force vote on minimum wage Warren's wealth tax would cost 100 richest Americans billion 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 TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE has threatened to veto the NDAA over the requirement.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video 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 MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward 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.”