New name for Fort Lee will come after extended community vetting, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine says
(Tribune News Service) — A new name for Fort Lee is still a long way from becoming reality, but the interim period between now and then presents a "wonderful opportunity" for the Tri-City area to work together on a name that stands for all rather than just some, according to Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
Kaine said in a Zoom conference with reporters Tuesday that the newest defense spending bill — to which both the House of Representatives and Senate have attached renaming requirements — is being conferenced by both chambers to work out language differences. The Senate version sets up a 2-3 year process for renaming 10 Army posts across the South, including Fort Lee on the Petersburg outskirts and Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green in Caroline County.
Kaine said the Senate language, which he is lobbying for, sets up enough time for a new name to be completely vetted by the communities that surround the posts.
"It's one thing to say we'll take the name off," Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that drafted the Senate version. "But you have got to get the input of the community in significant ways to decide what the new name will be."
House and Senate Democrats attached the renaming rider onto the FY 2021 Defense Authorization Bill. The House version threatens to withhold federal funding from any military installation that does not change its name.
The name change is part of national Democratic-backed efforts to remove systemic racism throughout law-enforcement, societal and military across the country.
Kaine said the conference committee looking at the House and Senate versions of the bill plans to have a recommendation ready for President Donald Trump later this month or next month. The president has repeatedly vowed he would veto the spending bill if the renaming language — "I have a hard time believing he would," Kaine said — but the Virginia Democrat also said he felt there were enough votes to override any Trump veto.
"We can't take that for granted," he added.
Trump is expected to leave office Jan. 20. President-elect Joe Biden supports the post renaming.
Kaine said he sees the renaming as a great way for edrveryone to come together on a name rather than having something thrust upon them.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to sort of think about the history and the military heroes in the area in a new way," he said.
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