WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have joined 35 Senate colleagues in a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging that they reconcile and retain the bicameral, bipartisan measure to require military installations and assets that honor the Confederacy and Confederate officers be renamed within the next three years. Senate and House Armed Services leaders begin the final stage of conference this week on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In June, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a bipartisan version of an 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.
The senators continued, "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."
"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. 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,” the senators concluded.
Read the full text of the letter here.
Senators Udall and Heinrich are both cosponsors of standalone legislation, The Removing Confederate Names and Symbols from Our Military Act. This legislation would require the Pentagon to remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America and anyone who voluntarily served it from all military bases and other assets of the Department of Defense.
In addition to Senators Udall and Heinrich, the letter, led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), 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.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), 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.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i).