House Passes Defense Bill Removing Confederate Names From Bases

The push to rename military bases and facilities bearing the names of Confederate figures has bipartisan, though not unanimous, support in Congress.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House of Representatives passed a $740 billion military spending package on Tuesday, despite a veto threat from President Donald Trump over the renaming of military bases named after Confederate figures.

The sweeping defense bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, passed the Democrat-controlled House 295-125 on Tuesday evening. The Senate has started consideration of its own version of the bill and is expected to pass the measure next week.

In addition to setting the Pentagon’s budget, the House bill is also packed with a list of policy priorities. These include banning the Confederate flag on military bases and a process for renaming bases and facilities named for people “who served in the political or military leadership of any armed rebellion against the United States.”

The Senate version of the bill has a similar renaming requirement and the move to rename military assets that bear the names of Confederate figures has bipartisan, though not unanimous, support in Congress.

But Trump has threatened a veto for any bill that comes to his desk requiring new names for military assets. The president has lamented the movement to remove Confederate symbols from the bases, casting it as an attempt to erase history.

“We won two World Wars, beautiful World Wars that were vicious and horrible and we won them out of Fort Bragg, we won them out of all of these forts and now they want to throw those names away,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News that aired on Sunday.

The formal veto threat the White House released on Tuesday said the push to rename the bases would harm the legacy of people who served on the installations and warned it could extend to founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

“President Trump has been clear in his opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to rewrite history and to displace the enduring legacy of the American Revolution with a new left-wing cultural revolution,” the statement of administration policy states.

Outside of government, Trump has also criticized NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag at its races.

In addition to the renaming issue, the White House also objects to provisions in the bill that would put constraints on how money is spent in Afghanistan and prevent the administration from pulling troops out of Germany, as well as other initiatives included in the legislation.

The massive defense bill has become law in 59 straight years and is one of the few that comes through Congress every year that is all but guaranteed to pass given its subject matter.  

Debate over the massive bill began in the House on Monday and stretched into Tuesday afternoon as lawmakers voted on a steady stream of amendments, some of which touched on military policy and some that went far beyond.

One of those amendments approved on Monday limits the president’s authority under the Insurrection Act, an early 19th century law that allows the president to deploy military personnel to enforce domestic law in certain circumstances.

Though he has not invoked the law, Trump has threatened to do so in response to nationwide protests against police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd when he was in the custody of Minneapolis police.

With a 93-324 vote, the House defeated an effort from progressive Democrats to cut the bill’s spending authorization by 10% and by a 129-284 vote rejected an amendment from Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, to accelerate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, said the bill includes positive provisions, but faulted it for not making permanent language preventing the administration from spending money in contravention to the War Powers Act.

“We had a Republican attorney general testify that the War Powers Act is not enforceable against a president, but with this provision it is,” Sherman told Courthouse News. “We’ve got to enforce the War Powers Act.”

Courthouse News reporter Jack Rodgers contributed to this report.

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