WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump tweeted that his administration “won’t even consider” renaming military bases in the United States named after Confederate officers, House Democrats are introducing a bill to do just that.
Rep. Yvette Clarke will introduce, for a second time, the Honoring Real Patriots Act, which would rename military bases named for “any individual who took up arms against the United States during the American Civil War.” The renewed push comes as Americans protest nationwide against police brutality and systemic racism and as statues commemorating figures with backgrounds linked to slavery and racism have been pulled down around the US and across the globe.
“We are a country with racism in our DNA,” Clarke, who will formally reintroduce the bill on Thursday, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “And while we see it play out today in so many ways, including police brutality against Black people, this is not a new mindset for a country that has a history of shackling up Black people, counting Black people as just three-fifths a person and, to this day, memorializes racist Confederate generals in naming military bases, street names and buildings after them.”
The bill requires the secretary of defense to change the names of the bases no later than a year after the bill’s enactment.
The legislation would impact Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, and Fort Lee in Virginia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Hood in Texas; and Fort Rucker in Alabama.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday also wrote a letter requesting that 11 statues of Confederate soldiers and officials be removed from the Capitol Building.
Clarke’s proposal comes as the Marines Corps and the Navy banned the use of the Confederate flags on all its military installations earlier this week. On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said they were “open” to a bipartisan discussion on renaming the 10 US bases. On Wednesday, Trump openly condemned the idea on Twitter.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump wrote in a three-tweet thread. “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
A printed copy of Trump’s tweets was distributed to members of the White House press corps ahead of a briefing by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday, during which she echoed the president’s sentiments.
“The President will not be signing legislation that renames America’s forts,” McEnany told reporters. “That is an absolute nonstarter for the president.”
For the bill to become law, it would have to pass the Republican-led Senate and Trump would have to sign the legislation.
A similar movement sputtered in 2017 during a push to remove Confederate monuments after the "Unite the Right" rally turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the time, Clarke and Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez, and Jerry Nadler called for the Army to rename streets inside a New York military base that were named after two generals in the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. When the Army refused, Clarke pushed back with the same legislation she’s reintroducing Thursday.
“It’s no surprise that America’s Bigot-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, has taken to Twitter to commend the naming of these racist Confederate military bases because it’s just more of the same from him as he continues to spew hatred and bigotry every single day out of his mouth and by tweet,” Clarke said.