Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that he was “OK” with renaming military installations named after Confederate leaders, which contrasted with comments of President Donald Trump who previously said his administration “will not even consider” renaming the bases.
“I can only speak for myself on this issue. If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m personally OK with that, and I am a descendent of a Confederate veteran myself,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s remarks came after a Republican-controlled Senate committee approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Warren filed the amendment to rename several military bases named after Confederate figures amid national conversations about systemic racism following the death of George Floyd.
Since Floyd’s death, multiple statues memorializing Confederate figures were vandalized or torn down by protesters and local authorities during nationwide demonstrations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for the removal of several Confederate statues from Capitol Hill in a June 9 letter to the chair and vice chair of Congress’s Joint Committee on the Library.
“The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi wrote. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.”
Although McConnell said he did not oppose renaming bases currently named after Confederate leaders, he rejected calls to remove statues of Confederate figures from the Capitol.
“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” McConnell said.
“You know, there were eight presidents who owned slaves. Washington did. Jefferson did. Madison did. Monroe did. Look, as far as the statues are concerned, every state gets two. Any state can trade out, as Sen. [Roy] Blunt [R-Mo.] pointed out, if they choose to. And some actually are choosing to,” he added.
President Trump referenced his position on the renaming debate during a Tuesday news conference, saying, “To go forward, we must seek cooperation, not confrontation. We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down.”