The House approved a $740 billion national defense authorization bill on Tuesday to grant a 3% pay raise for troops and require the military to remove the names of Confederate soldiers and leaders from military bases.
It advanced with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority of 295 to 125.
Passage of the legislation sets up negotiations between the House and Senate for a final version of the bill. Senators are considering their chamber’s proposal this week as well.
The House measure would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.
Agreement between the two chambers on the matter makes it likely that some form of the plan to rename bases will survive in the final text of the legislation – potentially leading to a showdown with President Donald Trump, who has vowed to veto the legislation if it strips Confederate names from military bases.
The White House emphasized Trump’s opposition to the plan on Tuesday, saying in a statement that several provisions “present serious concerns,” specifically pointing to the renaming of military institutions.
The House bill would also ban Confederate flags on military property – including vehicles, living quarters and clothing. It provides exceptions to the prohibition in some instances, such as museums on Defense Department property and the headstones of Confederate soldiers.
Members also sought to limit Trump’s ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in the legislation. An amendment adopted in the House Armed Services Committee before the bill came to the chamber floor would require the administration to certify to Congress that removing troops is in the best interest of the United States and that it would not compromise counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan or place US troops at risk.
Proposal to limit presidential power on Insurrection Act
It also calls for a report on the threat posed by the Taliban and the impacts of a potential troop withdrawal.
The bill aims to address needs during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a $1 billion pandemic response and preparedness fund for the Pentagon.
The legislation passed out of committee without any opposition early in July. The debate wasn’t without controversy, though.
Democrats approved an amendment Tuesday to impose limits on the President’s ability to deploy the military within the United States under the Insurrection Act to quell domestic unrest – a proposal Republicans fiercely opposed.
The amendment, introduced by Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas, would require the President and the defense secretary to certify to Congress with “demonstrable evidence” that an American state in question is unable or unwilling to suppress an insurrection before the President takes military action to respond to it.
Such certification would also include details of the circumstances requiring the invocation of the Insurrection Act and a description of the mission, scope and duration of the use of members of the armed forces for the matter.
Passed in 1807, the Insurrection Act gives presidents the power to deploy the American military domestically in specific situations. Trump threatened to invoke the authority during protests against police brutality and systemic racism last month.
During debate on Monday, Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican, argued the Escobar amendment would “hinder and delay” executive efforts to preserve domestic peace. He claimed the amendment was a “political gimmick.”
Escobar and her allies defended the amendment as an effort to impose transparency over the use of military force, noting it would apply to all presidents in the future, not just Trump.
“Congress has a responsibility to exercise oversight over the use of military force,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat.
The House added Escobar’s amendment to the defense bill with a vote of 215 to190. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington was the only Republican to support the measure. Fourteen Democrats, including several freshmen from conservative districts, joined Republicans in voting against it.