Senate Joins Push to Dump Military’s Confederate Past

(AP Photo/Chris Seward)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Appearing to tune out President Donald Trump on the matter, the Senate on Thursday approved a $740 billion defense bill that would rename any military instillations named for Confederate figures.

The package passed the Senate 86-14, two days after Trump threatened to veto a House version of the yearly legislation that sets the Pentagon budget and puts forward a litany of defense policy provisions.

As in the House version, the Senate legislation includes a requirement for the Department of Defense to rename military installations that bear the names of Confederate generals. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren inserted the proposal when her chamber’s bill was in committee.

Trump, who for years has held up the slave-owning President Andrew Jackson as a personal hero, has been critical of those who would remove Confederate names from bases.

“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 Sunday. 

Trump issued a formal veto threat for the House package on Tuesday, citing the renaming requirement as well as constraints on how money is spent in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops from bases in Germany. The White House has not issued a similar threat for the Senate, which passed its version with a veto-proof majority.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, sought to add an amendment to the bill that would have prevented the Trump administration from withdrawing troops from Germany, but the proposal was blocked.

Earlier in the week, the Senate also resoundingly rejected an amendment from Senator Rand Paul that would have required the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. With a 23-77 vote, lawmakers on Wednesday beat back an amendment from Senator Bernie Sanders that would have cut the Pentagon budget by 10%. A similar amendment from progressive Democrats in the House also failed.

Because of its subject matter, the bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, is considered one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation that comes through Congress each year and has become law for 59 years in a row.

“I’ve said many times and said this several times in the past several days and several weeks, that the NDAA is one of our most important responsibilities,” Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday. “You know, there’s a document I refer to now and then that nobody reads anymore, it’s called the Constitution. And that Constitution tells us what we’re supposed to be doing here. What we’re supposed to be doing here is exactly what we’re doing here today.”

The bill will now make its way to conference, the process through which the House and Senate hammer out differences between different versions of the same legislation.

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