Washington — President Trump threatened to veto this year's $740 billion annual defense policy bill over a provision that requires the Department of Defense to rename bases and other military assets named for Confederate leaders, he said late Tuesday.
Mr. Trump took aim at the amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, which would require the Pentagon to change the names of 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals. Warren's measure also extends to other military assets named for the Confederate officers and requires the Defense Department to remove names, symbols, displays and monuments that commemorate the Confederacy within three years.
"I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!" he tweeted.
Warren's amendment to the annual defense spending bill was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee by voice vote last month. But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany effectively issued a veto threat when asked following approval of the measure whether Mr. Trump would sign legislation that requires changing the names of Defense Department facilities named for Confederate leaders.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Mr. Trump's vow to veto the measure "typical bluster" and said he expects the defense bill to pass and the names of Confederate officers will be scrubbed from military bases.
"Let me make a prediction," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. "First, that provision will not change in this bill as it moves through the House and Senate. Second, let me predict President Trump will not veto a bill that contains pay raises for our troops and crucial support for our military."
The president has publicly rebuffed calls for Confederate monuments to be removed and the names of Army installations to be changed, tweeting last month that his administration "will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations."
The toppling of statues of Confederate officers and removal of the Confederate likenesses from public property across the country have emerged as a flashpoint in the movement to reform policing and end racial injustice, which gained momentum following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.
In Washington, D.C., demonstrators toppled a statue of a Confederate general last month and attempted to tear down a statue of President Andrew Jackson located outside the White House in Lafayette Square.
But Mr. Trump has vowed to preserve American monuments, memorials and statues amid the targeting of those that commemorate Confederate leaders by demonstrators. The president signed an executive order to protect federal monuments and statues last week, which instructs law enforcement to prosecute those who damage the property.
On Tuesday, he characterized the 2020 presidential election as a "battle to save the Heritage, History, and Greatness of our country."