"These bases were named to honor individuals who took up arms against our nation, in a war that killed more than half a million Americans," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in support of the bill

By Sean Neumann
July 24, 2020 03:09 PM
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U.S. Capitol
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Senate Republicans ignored President Donald Trump's threats to veto a bill over its provision to rename military bases that honor Confederate soldiers.

Congress' upper chamber, which is majority Republican, voted 86-14 vote to approve the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday. The bill largely focuses on increasing military spending, including a 3 percent raise for soldiers, but it also features a policy that clears the way for military bases to be renamed.

The votes are more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto from Trump, who has threatened that he might take such an action this month. (The White House did not comment on the bill when asked by PEOPLE on Friday.)

The president, 74, told Fox News host Chris Wallace in mid-July that he was "against" renaming the bases.

"We won two world wars, two world wars, beautiful world wars that were vicious and horrible, and we won them out of Fort Bragg, we won out of all of these forts that now they want to throw those names away," Trump said in that interview.

When Wallace told him the military has voiced support for the change, Trump responded: "I don’t care what the military says."

The House of Representatives and the Senate will next have to match up their versions of the bill in conference. Both versions call for the bases to be renamed, according to Politico.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican, said the goal was a bill "that both sides can support and the president can sign."

A Robert E. Lee monument on June 20, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia.
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Still determined to block the bill, Trump tweeted Friday morning that Inhofe "has informed me that he WILL NOT be changing the names," though it's unclear how that would work legislatively.

Later Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters she could not explain the specifics of how Inhofe may modify the approved bill, or the specific provision on military bases. But she contended that "the president was assured" by the senator that he would.

NPR reports that 10 military bases named after Confederate soldiers would be renamed if the bill becomes law, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Benning in Georgia.

President Donald Trump appearing on Fox News Sunday
Fox News Sunday

The military-base provision included in the Senate bill was first introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who explained on the Senate floor last month why she proposed the change as protests against racial injustice continue around the country this summer.

"It has been more than 150 years since the end of the Civil War. But 10 U.S. Army posts around this country currently bear the names of officers of the Confederate States of America," said Warren, 71. "Think about that: These bases were named to honor individuals who took up arms against our nation, in a war that killed more than half a million Americans. They took up arms to defend an institution that reduced Black people to property."

Warren added: "Those who complain that removing the names of traitors from these bases ignores history ought to learn some history themselves."