Congress defies Trump veto threat on Confederate base names

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2015, file photo a bridge marks the entrance to the U.S. Army's Fort Benning as the sun rises in Columbus, Ga. The Senate on Thursday, July 23, 2020, joined the House in defying a veto threat from President Donald Trump to approve defense legislation that would remove the names of Confederate officers from American military bases such as Fort Bragg and Fort Benning. (AP Photo/Branden Camp, File)

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday joined the House in defying a veto threat from President Donald Trump to approve defense legislation that would remove the names of Confederate officers from American military bases such as Fort Bragg and Fort Benning.

The Senate approved the annual policy measure, 86-14, a margin that suggests more than enough support to override a potential Trump veto. The House approved its version on Tuesday by a veto-proof margin of 295-125. Now the two chambers will have to negotiate a final version. Both bills authorize $741 billion for the military, including a 3% pay raise for the troops.

The White House said in a statement this week that it supports the overall spending figure but expressed “serious concerns” about the House bill, including the mandate on base renaming.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers will work to produce a joint House-Senate bill "that both sides can support and the president can sign.”

The Senate bill “gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,'' Inhofe said, singling out China and Russia as the top threats to national security.

"By fully investing in our military growth and modernization, we’re restoring deterrence so no country wants to challenge us. I don’t want a fair fight out there, I want to be superior — and this bill does that,'' Inhofe said.

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on Armed Services, also hailed the bill, saying it "strengthens our military and bolsters our capacity to effectively defend America from evolving security challenges.''

The bill invests in integrated technologies and platforms that improve deterrence, Reed said, and "provides our troops with decisive, lasting advantages and powerful, force-multiplying assets.”