Mitch McConnell Finally Breaks With Donald Trump Over Racist Veto Threat

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President Donald Trump has made a defense of monuments to the Confederacy a top priority. This Wednesday, he even threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes defense-related spending for the year, if the final version that’s sent to his desk includes a provision for the removal of the names of Confederate leaders from army bases around the country. Why is Trump so desperately committed to keeping those names up? During an interview with Fox this Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who is not exactly a moderate by any stretch of the imagination — actually said that he hopes the president backs down from his veto threat.

McConnell commented:

‘Well, I would hope the president really wouldn’t veto the bill over this issue… I hope the president will reconsider vetoing the entire defense bill, which includes pay raises for our troops, over a provision in there that could lead to changing the names.’

In his original threat to veto the defense spending bill that included the provision to remove Confederate names from bases, Trump actually used a racist slur. Specifically, he derisively referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas” in reference to her past claims of Native American ancestry. Warren originally introduced the measure including the provision for the removal of Confederate names — but it was passed in the Republican-majority Senate Armed Services Committee.

Trump had ranted:

‘I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!’

Trump and his allies who’ve come out in support of monuments to the Confederacy have consistently claimed that removing the monuments would somehow constitute erasing history, which is a ridiculous claim. Have they never heard of books? Besides, as for the specific history of bases named after Confederate generals hosting soldiers who fought in World War I and II — it’s not the bases who went out to battle! It’s the soldiers who went out to fight against fascism.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested that Trump wouldn’t even follow through on his threat to veto the defense spending authorization bill. Schumer commented:

‘Let me make a prediction: First, that provision will not change in this bill as it moves through the House and the Senate. Second, let me predict that President Trump will not veto a bill that contains pay raises for our troops and crucial support for our military.’

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) agreed with Schumer’s prediction that the provision for the removal of Confederate names from bases would remain in the defense spending authorization bill as it wound through Congress. As he put it, he thinks that “it’s going to be a big bipartisan vote coming out of the Senate.” Removing monuments to the Confederacy shouldn’t, in reality, be a problem — but protecting those monuments has somehow become a top priority of the president while the U.S. deals with many other crises.