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Senate passes veto-proof Defense bill that will remove Confederate names from Army bases

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) attends a special Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs hearing at the National September 11th Memorial Museum in New York on September 9, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

The U.S. Senate Thursday passed with a veto-proof majority a Defense spending bill that includes a provision to remove the names of Confederate officers from 10 military bases.

All four senators from Kansas and Missouri backed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) including Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who had vehemently opposed language requiring Fort Bragg in North Carolina and other Confederate-name bases to be renamed.

Hawley lambasted the provision, drafted by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as an effort to erase history and a veiled attack on President Donald Trump’s supporters. He offered his own amendment to strip out the renaming requirement and instead establish a commission to consider input from local stakeholders before bases could be renamed.

Hawley’s amendment did not make it onto the final bill or even receive a vote by the full Senate after Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed earlier this month objected to it, Hawley’s office told The Kansas City Star.

The annual NDAA authorizes the nation’s military spending for the next fiscal year. Trump has threatened to veto a version that renames the military bases, but that looks less likely after the Senate passed its version 86-14, well above the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

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Hawley’s office said the senator did not want to hold up the legislation, which includes funding for Missouri’s military bases among other priorities, but said he would continue to press the issue as the House and Senate negotiate a final version to send to the president’s desk.

“Senator Hawley wants to see the process move forward. He secured multiple Missouri initiatives and priorities in the Senate NDAA package. But he stands by his amendment and would like to see the final legislation reflect his proposal,” said Kelli Ford, Hawley’s spokeswoman.

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt also backed the bill along with Kansas GOP Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. It includes a provision from Moran, the Senate Veterans Affairs chairman, that ensures women in the National Guard and military reserves can take 12 weeks of maternity leave without being penalized on their retirement.

The U.S. House passed its own version of the bill earlier this week by a bipartisan vote of 295-125. It includes language from Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler aimed at reducing the military’s reliance on pharmaceutical products from China.

Hartzler supported the bill, noting the $40 million included for a hospital replacement project at Fort Leonard Wood among other Missouri priorities. The two chambers will now confer on a final version of the NDAA to send to the president.

However, several Republicans in the region were among the no votes, including Missouri Republican Reps. Jason Smith and Billy Long, and every Kansas Republican in the House — Reps. Roger Marshall, Steve Watkins and Ron Estes. The remaining Republicans and every Democrat from the region backed the House bill.

Marshall, who is locked in a tough primary race for U.S. Senate, did not respond to a request for comment about his vote earlier in the week.

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© 2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.