A battle is brewing in Washington: President Trump has vowed to Republican lawmakers that he will veto the legislation to pass the Defense Department’s budget bill unless a bipartisan provision to rename military bases that honor Confederate military leaders is removed, according to inside sources.

Since the November 3rd election, President Trump has frequently told Republicans close to the administration that he will not back down on his vow to veto the 2021 annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it includes the aforementioned amendment. 

This has created trouble between Democratic leaders. They now weigh the option of having the 2021 NDAA vetoed by the president and then having to force the issue with President Trump thus possibly losing bipartisan support, or agreeing to axing the language and ensuring the $740 billion bill is passed on time.

Some Democrats are worried that House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith is more concerned with a timely passage of the defense budget than eliminating what they characterize as a shameful reminder of the Civil War.  

Smith bristled at the suggestion calling it “absolutely not true,” but also said it is important to get this piece of legislation passed before the end of the year. 

“I have no intention whatsoever of dropping this in order to get a bill passed,” Smith said to the press. “We’ll have to see what offers are made and what’s out there.”

“It’s not just the CBC or leadership. It’s a pretty strong caucus position that the bases ought to be renamed,” Smith added. “There is no justification at this point in our history to continue to have bases renamed after people who rose up in armed rebellion against the United States in order to preserve slavery.”

The defense budget bill has been passing every year for the past 59 years. This is a rarity in the days of a deeply polarized Congress.

But Smith sees that this issue could derail the entire bill. 

“It’s a simple thing, and it’s getting in the way of a lot of very important stuff over something that we all ought to support, and most of us do,” Smith said.

Talks between Democrat and Republican leaders are underway as they try to find a common language that will please both sides, despite earlier discussions having large bipartisan support. 

The president has frequently said that he is against any renaming of bases calling the effort an attempt to rewrite American history. This has proven a sticking point whereon he has disagreed even with senior members of the administration including former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

President Trump took to Twitter earlier this summer saying that, “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!”

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, (R-OK), indicated that the president has refused to budge. He added that it is a “big issue” of contention in negotiations with Democrats.

“Only the president can say whether or not there’s any room for a negotiation,” Senator Inhofe said. He added that it is doubtful that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), would put the NDAA 2021 bill up “that has a veto on it” for a vote on the floor.

If the budget is vetoed and doesn’t pass before January it would have to be created from scratch. The budget contains key pay raises and quality of life funds for military families. 

Regardless of whether the president vetoes the bill, a Biden administration could easily override that by an executive order. This would no doubt affect the changes much quicker.

As it stands, the Senate bill would give the Pentagon three years to change the bases’ names, whereas the House bill would give it one year.

“The names affixed to our military installations must honor the diverse heritage of leadership and sacrifice in our country’s history. I fully support Senator Warren’s bipartisan effort to form a commission to rename Defense Department facilities named after Confederate leaders in the next three years and look forward to implementing the commission’s work as president,” Biden had written in the summer.

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