DES MOINES – A senior Republican senator and staunch ally of President Donald Trump said Monday that Congress would “probably override” a veto if the president decided to veto a Congressional plan to rename military bases named after Confederate leaders.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, made the comments Monday on a call with reporters when discussing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would remove the names of Confederate leaders from military assets within three years.
Trump has threatened to veto the spending bill if it contains the amendment.
“I would hope he wouldn’t veto it just based on that,” Grassley said of Trump.
Grassley raised the possibility that the issue of renaming bases could be considered separately from the full defense spending bill but said he believes Congress has the votes to override a presidential veto if it comes to that.
“If it came to overriding a veto, we’d probably override the veto,” he said.
The senator’s comments are an unusual divergence from the president inside a Republican party that has typically stuck by him. It comes as the general election is only months away, and the party would typically want to head into its August convention with a united front.
Trump has issued eight vetoes during his presidency, and none have overridden by Congress.
The calls to rename U.S. military bases named for Confederate military commanders have gained steam amid nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said last month he’d also be “OK” changing Confederate names of bases.
“There shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to renaming bases,” Grassley said Monday. “And I imagine that in my lifetime, there’s been a lot of bases that have had their names changed. I’m not aware of it. But the extent to which it’s a thoughtful process and not a knee-jerk reaction, I wouldn’t have any objection to it.”
The Black Lives Matter protests have resulted in legislation in many states and communities to change police practices and to remove racist symbols from businesses and public sites, such as statues honoring the leaders of the Confederacy. In some cases, protesters have also toppled statues of Confederate leaders or other historical U.S. leaders who owned slaves.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, also an Iowa Republican, supported the amendment in a U.S. Armed Services Committee vote last month.
Ernst said then that she understood “there will be opposition to it” but “it is a discussion that we absolutely need to have.”
Ernst was one of four Senate Republicans in competitive elections on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which approved the amendment by voice vote, including Sens. Tom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia, and Martha McSally of Arizona.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe, David Jackson
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
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