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Mil­i­tary per­son­nel pay hike at risk in dis­pute over Con­fed­er­ate bases

- US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Washington · Congress of the United States · John F. Kennedy · Democratic Party (United States) · Donald Trump · Fort Hood · United States Senate · Republican Party (United States) · Georgia · Joe Biden · Texas · Jim Inhofe · Oklahoma · Adam Smith · Nancy Pelosi · California · United States Department of Defense · Mark Meadows · Facebook · Mac Thornberry · Thornberry, Texas · David Perdue · Fort Benning

WASH­ING­TON—AN an­nual de­fense pol­icy mea­sure that has passed Congress ev­ery year since the Kennedy ad­min­is­tra­tion is in dan­ger of cra­ter­ing next month over a move by Democrats to re­name mil­i­tary bases, such as Fort Ben­ning, that are named af­ter Con­fed­er­ate of­fi­cers.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump op­poses re­nam­ing bases like Fort Hood and has threat­ened to veto the pop­u­lar mea­sure over the pro­vi­sion, which was added to both the House and Se­nate ver­sions of the so- called de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill this sum­mer.

Repub­li­cans are vow­ing they will not send the broader bill to Trump if it in­cludes lan­guage re­quir­ing bases named af­ter Con­fed­er­ate of­fi­cers to be re­named. Trump used the de­bate this sum­mer to ap­peal to South­ern vot­ers nos­tal­gic about the Con­fed­er­acy, and those ap­peals re­main rel­e­vant now due to two Se­nate runoff elec­tions in Ge­or­gia that will de­ter­mine con­trol of the cham­ber dur­ing the first two years of Pres­i­dent- elect Joe Bi­den’s ten­ure.

“I am con­cerned that there is at least the po­ten­tial that po­lit­i­cal con­cerns, es­pe­cially with the Ge­or­gia runoffs, are go­ing to play a big­ger role,” said top House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Repub­li­can Mac Thorn­berry of Texas. “I have no doubt that we can reach an agree­ment. The ques­tion is whether the pol­i­tics above us will al­low us to.”

Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man James In­hofe, Repub­li­can- Ok­la­homa., is strongly back­ing Trump, aides in­volved in the talks say. But Democrats, who won GOP sup­port in both the House and Se­nate to force the re­nam­ing of the bases, vow they will not back down. Typ­i­cally, when both House and Se­nate ver­sions of leg­is­la­tion con­tain com­pa­ra­ble pro­vi­sions, the de­fault po­si­tion is to leave the lan­guage in the fi­nal prod­uct. The dif­fer­ences be­tween the House and Se­nate pro­vi­sions are rel­a­tively mod­est.

“It’s Se­nate lan­guage that we want to agree to,” said House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Smith, Demo­crat-wash­ing­ton. “So there shouldn’t be con­tro­versy here.” He called Trump “a lit­tle bit er­ratic at the mo­ment.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Demo­crat-Cal­i­for­nia., says the names must be changed.

“It is im­per­a­tive that the con­fer­ence re­port in­clude pro­vi­sions that se­cure this es­sen­tial pri­or­ity,” said Pelosi. “Our bases should re­flect our high­est ideals as Amer­i­cans.”

The bill has to pass next month to avoid break­ing a 59- year streak of en­act­ing the an­nual mea­sure, which sets pol­icy across the Pen­tagon and would award the mil­i­tary a 3 per­cent pay raise start­ing Jan­uary 1, among its other pro­vi­sions.

“Look, the de­fense bill is re­ally im­por­tant,” Smith said, ex­press­ing hope that Repub­li­cans would re­lent.

White House chief of staff Mark Mead­ows has even floated the idea of a trade­off in which Trump would sign the leg­is­la­tion con­tain­ing the Demo­cratic lan­guage in ex­change for re­peal­ing so- called Sec­tion 230, a le­gal shield for so­cial- me­dia out­lets like Face­book that pro­tects web sites from li­a­bil­ity for con­tent posted on their sites. The Newyork­times first re­ported Mead­ows’ at­tempt at deal mak­ing, which was con­firmed by a Demo­cratic aide who re­quested anonymity be­cause the ne­go­ti­a­tions are oc­cur­ring be­hind closed doors.

Both the House and Se­nate de­fense mea­sures passed by veto- proof mar­gins but GOP lead­ers want to avoid the chances of a veto com­ing to pass. Ei­ther way, the is­sue seems to be a loser for Ge­or­gia’s Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, David Per­due and Kelly Lo­ef­fler. Break­ing with Trump to over­ride the veto could mean a loss in sup­port among core GOP vot­ers, while stand­ing in fa­vor of keep­ing the base names could drain sup­port from in­de­pen­dents.

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