President Trump early Wednesday vowed to veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act if it requires military installations named for Confederate figures to be renamed amid a renewed push to eliminate symbols of slavery in the U.S.
Military leaders have indicated they are open to renaming the 10 Army bases that honor southern generals.
“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 around midnight.
The measure was approved on a voice vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, and lawmakers said they do not have the 60 votes needed to strip the amendment from the measure on the Senate floor.
Trump has said he would not even consider renaming the bases.
Several Confederate statues have been toppled in recent days during racial justice protests triggered by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, who begged for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck. Many of the statues were erected following Reconstruction as groups like the Ku Klux Klan stoked racist attitudes.
“I dare President Trump to veto the bill over Confederate-base naming,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s in the bill. It has bipartisan support. It will stay in the bill.”
Trump’s threat followed a decision by Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to sign a bill stripping the Confederate battle symbol from the state flag – the last state flag to still sport the emblem.
“Tonight, I signed the bill to retire the 1894 Mississippi flag and begin the process of selecting a new one – emblazoned with the words ‘In God We Trust,’” Reeves tweeted after the Tuesday signing, calling on state residents to “put our divisions behind us.”
Among the bases facing possible renaming are Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Benning in Georgia – names Trump has labeled iconic.
A bipartisan measure on renaming already has been introduced in the House by two military veterans – Reps. Anthony Brown, D-Md., and Don Bacon, R-Neb.
“The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter,” Brown said in a statement. “It matters to the black soldier serving at an installation honoring the name of a leader who fought to preserve slavery and oppression. It matters to the culture of inclusivity and unity needed for our military to get the job done.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday drew a distinction between the monuments to Confederate leaders and statues of former presidents who were slaveowners.
“The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason … trying to take down the union and keep slavery — I think there’s a distinction,” Biden said during a question-and-answer session in Wilmington, Delaware.