WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee has approved legislation that opens the door to find new names for 10 Army bases currently named after Confederate generals.
The measure is part of the larger military funding package known as the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the few so-called “must-pass” pieces of legislation each year.
It calls for the creation of a commission to “study and provide recommendations concerning the removal, names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America.” The commission would have three years to examine the issue and report.
Earlier this week the Pentagon said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were open to a bipartisan commission regarding the issue.
Not open to it is President Trump. He used Twitter to say the names of bases that honor rebels would not be changed under his administration.
Creating the commission may become law, however, since it would be in the larger defense bill if it clears the House. That means Trump would have to veto the entire defense bill to oppose the commission.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told CNN the measure shows “we’re moving in the right direction.
“I agree with the president that we don’t want to forget our history,” Rounds, a member of the committee, said. “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.”
Last week the Marine Corps issued an order immediately implementing a ban on all Confederate items in public and military areas. The Navy announced on Tuesday it will issue a similar order at some point. The Army and Air Force have not publicly taken a position on that issue.
The issue of Confederate monuments, base names, and related honors of leaders of the slavery-based rebellion has quickly received new and wider attention and action in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Political leaders in various parts of the country have moved to remove statues depicting rebel leaders as heroes. Efforts are underway by some Democrats in Congress to remove 10 statues in the Capitol that honor the Confederacy and slavery. However, each state gets to honor two icons at the Capitol in Statuary Hall and state officials select who will be on display.
Across the United States, there are an estimated 1,741 public symbols of the Confederacy, including 771 statues, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Texas are home to half of them.
They include such places as Stone Mountain, Georgia, which is a giant carving of Confederate generals and political leaders that was funded by the KKK and widely regarded as a shrine for white supremacists. It is larger than Mount Rushmore.