US Senate Passes $ 740 Billion Defense Bill Against Trump by Confederate Names

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Senate on Thursday approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a $ 740 billion policy for the Pentagon that President Donald Trump has threatened to veto over a provision that eliminates Confederate names of military bases.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, speaks during a press conference of the working group on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, USA, July 22, 2020. REUTERS / Leah Millis

The vote was 86-14, one of the few times the Republican-led Senate separated from the president, and could pave the way for a fight later this year with the White House.

The House of Representatives, led by Democrats, also approved its version of the NDAA earlier this week with far more than the two-thirds super-majority needed to override a veto.

Like the Senate NDAA, the House bill also included a provision to change the names of military installations named after generals who fought on the pro-slavery side during the Civil War 155 years ago.

Tributes to the Confederacy and slave owners, such as basic names and statues, have come under increasing scrutiny amid widespread protests over racial injustice caused by police killings of American blacks.

Now that the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved versions of the bill, congressional negotiators will meet behind closed doors to negotiate a final and compromise NDAA, reconciling the differences between the two. The process will probably take months.

That pledge must go through both chambers before it can be sent for Trump’s signature or veto.

The requirement to change the base names is likely to survive the process because it was approved by both houses. Senate Republicans, who seldom separate from Trump and have never overridden one of his vetoes, have urged the president to withdraw his veto threat.

Trump has called the protesters “anarchists and agitators.”

One difference between the House and Senate bills is how they handle Trump’s plan to eliminate some American troops from Germany. Senate leaders refused to vote on an amendment, offered by Republican Senator Mitt Romney, that would have slowed Trump’s plan to move troops from Germany to other parts of Europe.

The House bill includes a provision that would prohibit a reduction of US forces in Germany or elsewhere in Europe unless military leaders certify that the reduction would not affect the security of the United States and its allies.

The Senate bill also imposes new restrictions on the so-called 1033 program, in which the Defense Department transfers military-grade equipment to local police forces, but does not block them. That program has also come under scrutiny during the protests, as officers have used tear gas and drove armored vehicles while dealing with protesters.

The House bill does not include restrictions on the 1033 program.

Congress passed the NDAA for 59 consecutive years. It is one of the few important laws treated as a “mandatory step” because it regulates everything from increasing the salary of the troops to the number of planes that must be purchased or the best way to compete with rivals such as Russia and China.

Report by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Peter Cooney and Matthew Lewis edition

Our Standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.