Wyden, Merkley Urge Armed Services Leaders to Rename Military Bases and Other Assets Honoring the Confederacy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are urging Senate and House Armed Services leaders to retain a bipartisan measure that would require military installations and assets honoring the Confederacy and Confederate officers to be renamed within the next three years.

The letter from Wyden, Merkley and 35 of their colleagues to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees comes as those Armed Services leaders begin the final stage of conference this week on the National Defense Authorization Act.

In June, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) passed a bipartisan version of the amendment to remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and anyone who voluntarily served it from bases and other property of the U.S. military on a voice vote. The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure, both creating a process for identifying all military assets where the Confederacy is honored and implementing the new removal requirement. The House bill requires the process to be complete within one year, while the Senate bill authorizes a three-year period for complete renaming. In their letter, the Senators urge the conference committee to adopt a reconciled version of the measure that would require renaming to be complete within three years. Both committees passed their bills out of committee with overwhelming bipartisan majorities and each chamber followed suit.

“The Senate and House strongly supported the inclusion of this requirement by passing their bills with overwhelming, veto-proof, bipartisan majorities. The requirement also received bipartisan support in committee markups,” the senators wrote in their letter to Armed Services Committees’ leadership.

Their letter raises concerns with Senate Armed Services Chairman Inhofe’s declaration that he intends to strip the bipartisan, veto-proof provision out behind closed doors in conference, saying “We’re going to see to it that provision doesn’t survive the bill… I’m not going to say how at this point.” 

“We strongly oppose removing this provision and respectfully request the conferees to retain in the conference report the provision endorsed by both chambers: a requirement for the Department to rename all military assets named for the Confederacy no later than three years after the date of enactment,” the senators wrote.

“Millions of servicemembers of color have lived on, trained at, and deployed from installations named to honor traitors that killed Americans in defense of chattel slavery,” they wrote. “Renaming these bases does not disrespect our military – it honors the sacrifices and contributions of our servicemembers in a way that better reflects our nation’s diversity and values. We know who these bases were named for and why they were named. It is long past the time to correct this longstanding, historic injustice. We must not shrink from our solemn duty in his moment.”

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter led by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to Armed Services leadership also was signed by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) – all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.),  Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i).

The entire letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.