Trump won’t ‘even consider’ push to rename bases honoring Confederates

By: - June 11, 2020 3:30 pm

President Donald Trump participates in a signing ceremony for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with members of his administration and Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC on April 24th, 2020. | Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images)

Updated, 12:43 p.m., 6/12/20 with comments from Sen. Peters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee this week adopted an amendment to require the Defense Department to rename U.S. military facilities named in honor of Confederates.

The amendment from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, was adopted during a closed-door vote on annual defense policy legislation. The language was approved by a voice vote, Roll Call reported, a procedure that’s generally used for measures that have broad bipartisan support.

The amendment marks a victory for advocates calling for the removal of Confederate statues and renaming of installations that honor Confederate leaders. The long-simmering debate has intensified during the recent protests for racial equality following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

But the effort drew sharp criticism from President Donald Trump, and is sure to be a sticking point as negotiations over the massive $740 billion defense policy bill move forward.

“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc.,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!” he wrote.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who cosponsored the Warren amendment, said he was “glad we included an amendment to initiate a 3-year process to rename DOD facilities currently named after Confederates. For too many, these names are not merely reminders of a painful past but symbols of a troubled present. It’s time for a change.” Kaine said the amendment had “strong bipartisan support” in the Armed Services Committee.

The committee also approved language from Kaine to prevent the use of military funds or personnel against protesters. Kaine said that was “something I would never have thought I needed to do until last week: prevent the use of military force against peaceful protesters.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, supported the amendment, according to spokeswoman Nirmeen Fahmy.

Peters wrote on Twitter this week: “I say this as a former Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve & member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: military bases shouldn’t be named after confederates. There are American heroes in our history who demonstrated the values of our nation in service & earned such an honor.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, was among those who supported the amendment to rename military bases.

“My vote was aye,” he wrote on Instagram. “We have ten Army bases named for confederate generals, most of whom violated their oaths when they abandoned the U.S. Army to take up arms against their country in service to the preservation of slavery.”

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, also voted in favor of the amendment, according to his spokeswoman Sarah Schwirian.

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters on Thursday that he was open to the idea of renaming the bases, the Washington Post reported. “We’ll look to see what comes out of the [National Defense Authorization Act]” McCarthy said. “I’m not opposed to it, though.”

In the House, Maryland Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown and Nebraska Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon announced bipartisan legislation this week to establish a process to rename military installations honoring leaders of the Confederacy within a year.

“The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter. 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,” Brown said in a statement.

Bacon said, “As the most diverse and integrated part of American society, it is only right that our installations bear the names of military heroes who represent the best ideals of our Republic.”

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.