Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday said he would be “OK” with renaming military bases that were named after Confederate Army officers, pitting himself against President Trump and other Republicans who have opposed the move.
The top Senate Republican said he’ll live with whatever lawmakers decide as they debate an annual defense policy bill for the military in the coming weeks.
President Donald Trump has refused to remove the names of Confederate generals from U.S. military bases like Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
President Trump last week came out strongly against the idea of renaming the bases, saying that his administration “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
A GOP-controlled Senate panel voted last week to require bases such as Ft. Bragg and Ft. Hood to be renamed within three years. McConnell, himself the descendant of a Confederate veteran, didn’t endorse the idea but said he wouldn’t oppose it.
“I can only speak for myself on this issue. If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m OK with that,” McConnell said. “Whatever is ultimately decided I don’t have a problem with.”
But McConnell came out forcefully against a proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove statues of Confederates such as Jefferson Davis from display in the Capitol, calling it “nonsense” and saying it would “airbrush the Capitol.”
The Senate’s requirement for the bases to be renamed within three years was approved by a voice vote as a piece of the annual Pentagon policy bill. A commission would be set up to oversee the process.
The debate over the Confederate flag and other symbols of black oppression has reignited in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of a white Minneapolis police officer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.