Washington — The Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the annual military spending bill that would require the Defense Department to change the names of military bases and assets named for Confederate leaders.
A source familiar with the proceedings confirmed to CBS News that the GOP-led panel on Wednesday approved the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts via voice vote. According to a summary of the NDAA released by the committee Thursday, the measure requires the Defense Department to rename posts and assets — streets, aircraft, ships, and other equipment — either named for Confederate officers or that honor the confederacy within three years.
Passage of the amendment was first reported by Roll Call on Wednesday night.
Warren said on Twitter on Tuesday that she offered the amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act last week, writing "it's long past time to end the tribute to white supremacy on our military installations."
In a series of tweets Thursday, the Massachusetts Democrat said the country "should honor the contributions of Black, Brown, Native & women servicemembers & others who have served."
"Donald Trump should listen to his own party members and Pentagon leaders who recognize that it's time to respect generations of loyal US servicemembers and rename these bases."
The move by the Senate Armed Services panel could lead to a showdown between the Republican-led Senate and the White House, as President Trump on Wednesday dismissed the possibility of renaming military installations named for Confederate leaders.
The president said in a series of tweets that the 10 Army posts in six states "have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom."
"My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations," he added. "Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany effectively issued a veto threat when asked whether Mr. Trump would sign legislation passed by Congress that mandates the Defense Department change the names of bases named for Confederate officers, saying he "will not be signing legislation that renames America's forts."
On Thursday, Mr. Trump criticized Warren for the amendment and urged GOP senators to oppose it, even though the vote before the Armed Services panel already occurred.
"Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars. Hopefully our great Republican Senators won't fall for this!" the president tweeted.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a member of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters Thursday he opposed the amendment and said, "I just don't think that Congress mandating that these be renamed and attempting to erase that part of history is a way you deal with that history." Hawley later said he would offer an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to undo Warren's amendment.
But other Republicans on the panel expressed support for the removing the names.
"I agree with the president that we don't want to forget our history. We don't want to forget what's happened in the past," GOP Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota told reporters. "But at the same time that doesn't mean that we should continue with those bases with the names of individuals who fought against our country."
In addition to the efforts by the Senate Armed Services Committee to rename military installations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday requested 11 statues of Confederate soldiers and officials be removed from the U.S. Capitol. Among those on display are statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, told reporters Thursday he was "not opposed" to renaming bases.
"I know [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper said he'd be open to it and look it as well, I know there are a number of people in the armed services who think it could be appropriate to change some, and some would say otherwise not to," McCarthy said. "We'll look to see what comes out of NDAA."
Calls for statues of Confederate leaders to be removed and streets and buildings bearing their names to be renamed have erupted in the wake of civil unrest after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.
An Army spokesperson said earlier this week, before Mr. Trump's tweets, that Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were open to discussions about renaming the 10 Army installations named for Confederate leaders. The U.S. Marine Corps last week issued a directive to commanders to "identify and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within workplaces, common-access areas and public areas on their installations," and the U.S. Navy said Tuesday that Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday directed his staff to start working on an order that would prohibit the Confederate flag from all public spaces and work areas on Navy installations.
On Wednesday night, a statue of Davis in Richmond, Virginia, was toppled by protesters there, and four statues that were part of a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, were torn down by demonstrators.
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