Trump says he’ll veto must-pass defense spending bill if it requires bases honoring Confederate generals be renamed

President Donald Trump in a late Tuesday night tweet issued his strongest veto threat yet on a must-pass defense spending bill should lawmakers not strip language requiring bases named after Confederate leaders be rechristened.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts proposed requiring the bases be renamed as a part of the annual defense authorization bill. The legislation funds the Pentagon and is often one of the few pieces of legislation that Congress can be counted on to pass each year in order to fund the country’s military operations.

However, Trump — using an offensive nickname for Warren — has now made the bill the latest flashpoint in his defense of monuments to the Confederacy and other racist leaders from the country’s past as he attempts to distract from a new nationwide peak in coronavirus cases and his own plummeting poll numbers.

“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!” Trump said in his tweet, not specifying what “other bad things” were included in the proposal.

Warren’s amendment to the legislation calls for removing the names of Confederate leaders from all military assets — base, installation, facility, aircraft, ship, plane or other type of equipment — within three years. The amendment was added to the bill in a closed-door Senate Armed Services Committee vote, which is controlled by Republicans. Some GOP lawmakers supported the measure.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a White police officer in Minneapolis, the military had seemed open to a conversation about renaming the bases named for Confederate military figures, but Trump put the kibosh on such a move in a tweet in June.

While Trump has often said in his statements about the bases that he opposes renaming places where troops were trained during the First and Second World Wars, the push falls in line with his desire to see statues to Confederate leaders continue to stand despite popular sentiment shifting in the opposite direction.

In one major example of the ground shifting under the President’s feet, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, on Tuesday signed a bill into law retiring the state flag, which contained an emblem of the Confederate battle flag in one of the corners. That bill had been passed by a GOP-dominated state legislature.