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McConnell urges Trump not to veto defense bill over renaming military bases

CBS News logo CBS News 7/2/2020 Melissa Quinn
a man holding a kite: Controversy Heightens Over Historic Statues In Virginia © / Getty Images Controversy Heightens Over Historic Statues In Virginia

Washington — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged President Trump to reconsider his vow to veto the annual defense policy bill over a provision that calls on the Defense Department to change the names of military assets and installations named for Confederate officers.

"I hope the president will reconsider vetoing the entire defense bill, which includes pay raises for our troops, over a provision in there that could lead to changing the names of some of these military bases," McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr. Trump threatened to veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which is under consideration in the Senate this week. The must-pass legislative package includes an amendment from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, that requires the Pentagon to rename 10 Army installations and other military assets named for Confederate leaders.

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Warren's amendment to the defense bill was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee by voice vote last month.

"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!" Mr. Trump tweeted.

But McConnell told Fox News he "would hope the president really wouldn't veto the bill over this issue." 

Despite Mr. Trump's promise to veto the bill if it includes Warren's amendment, some Senate Republicans expressed skepticism he would do so.

Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump is "not going to veto it."

"We have a long time to talk about this," he told reporters on Capitol Hill. "it will probably be November by the time it would be coming to his desk anyway, so a lot can happen between now and then, and one thing that isn't going to happen is a veto."

GOP Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said Warren's measure, which requires the Defense Department to establish a commission related to the removing of names, symbols, monuments and military assets that commemorate the Confederacy, "should not be a reason to veto the bill."

"I would plead with him not to do that, especially considering that there's three years to deal with the commission and to influence the commission and maybe even change it at some point," Cramer told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called the president's threat to veto the defense bill "typical buster" from Mr. Trump.

"Let me make a prediction," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "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."

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