In a rare bipartisan move in opposition to President Donald Trump, a Senate committee is advancing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal requiring military bases and other government assets honoring the Confederacy to be renamed.
However, the effort still has some obstacles, including the president.
During a closed hearing Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee adopted the Massachusetts Democrat’s proposed amendment to the upcoming defense budget through a voice vote (in which the specific votes of each senator are not recorded due to broad agreement).
As The Washington Post recently reported, there are 10 military installations named after former Confederate generals, including three of the country’s largest bases: Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia, and Fort Hood in Texas.
Warren’s proposal would require name changes for such bases within three years.
According to a source familiar with the legislation, the requirement would also apply to any facility, street, aircraft, ship, weapon, piece of equipment, or property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense. It also wouldn’t only apply to names the names of Confederate generals; symbols and displays honoring the slave-holding Confederacy would also have to be removed within three years.
The changes would be based on the recommendations of a commission formed to study and identify which assets would be affected, the source said.
As protests against systemic racism in law enforcement and revived efforts to remove statues representing oppression continue to ripple across the country, Warren acknowledged that her proposal “won’t erase the history of slavery and legacy of white supremacy.”
“We’re fighting for legislation, oversight, and accountability to root out systemic racism,” she wrote in a series of tweets Thursday. “But it’s long past time to stop honoring this ugly legacy.”
Changing the names of our bases won’t erase the history of slavery and legacy of white supremacy in the US. We’re fighting for legislation, oversight, and accountability to root out systemic racism. But it’s long past time to stop honoring this ugly legacy.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 11, 2020
Warren suggested using the opportunity to instead “honor the contributions of Black, Brown, Native, [and] women servicemembers,” as well as “others who have served.”
While the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the overall defense budget authorization bill in an “overwhelmingly bipartisan” vote of 25-2, the legislation is far from being finalized. And the Confederacy proposal appears to be in for a fight.
Even though top military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, expressed openness this week to renaming facilities named after secessionist leaders, Trump tweeted Wednesday that his administration would “not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” which he argued “have become part of a Great American Heritage” and a “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”
…history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2020
“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with,” he added. “Respect our Military!”
During a media availability Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated that Trump would “not be signing legislation that renames America’s forts.”
“That is an absolute nonstarter for the President,” McEnany said.
Despite the growing support from military leaders like former CIA Director David Petraeus, she argued that removing the names of Confederate generals from bases could lead to a slippery slope wherein other institutions honoring individuals linked to various forms of oppression would have to be renamed.
Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Armed Services committee, subsequently told reporters Thursday that he would try to water down Warren’s proposal, either on the Senate floor or while reconciling the budget authorization bill with the House’s version.
According to Roll Call, Inhofe suggested making the name change requirement optional by changing the language from “shall” to “may,” which would remove the legislation’s binding power. He also reportedly said state and local communities should have veto power over whether and how to rename bases.
“We’re talking about input of the community not just in the process but how to decide,” Inhofe said, according to Roll Call.
Warren’s office declined to respond to Inhofe’s comments Thursday.
And in an additional tweet Thursday afternoon, Trump singled out Warren and called for more Republicans to stand in opposition to her amendment.
Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars. Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020
“Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this,” he wrote.
For their part, Republicans in the House and Senate reportedly remain mixed on the subject. Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican and fellow Armed Services committee member, told the Post that he is a supporter of Warren’s proposal and that they would “work through” Trump’s opposition.
“The message is that if we’re going to have bases throughout the United States, I think it should be with the names of individuals who fought for our country,” Rounds said Thursday.
In her earlier thread of tweets, Warren — whose three brothers served in the military — said she was “grateful” that the committee was “taking this step forward.”
“Donald Trump should listen to his own party members and Pentagon leaders who recognize that it’s time to respect generations of loyal US servicemembers and rename these bases,” she wrote.