Senate advances $740 billion defense bill, stage set for Confederate battle

A man walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted 90-7 on Thursday to debate the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, setting the stage for a battle between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s Republicans over changing the names of military bases named after Confederate generals.

The $740 billion NDAA, which sets policy for the Pentagon, is one of the few pieces of major legislation passed by Congress ever year. This year would be the 60th in a row that the bill has passed.

Members of Congress seek to use it for a wide range of policy measures, not just governing what arms and equipment the Pentagon purchases and how much the troops are paid, but for a wide range of broader policy issues.

This year’s bill likely will include measures intended to move more of the U.S. manufacturing supply chain from China, bar the use of the military against peaceful protests and programs to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has promised to veto the bill if it passes Congress with a plank that would rename military bases named after Confederate generals within three years, backed by some of his fellow Republicans.

Democrats responded by proposing that such names be changed within one year.

The issue has come to the fore in recent weeks amid the protests against the police killing of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis

The Senate is expected to consider the NDAA next week, hoping to pass its version of the bill before the July 4 Independence Day holiday. The House of Representatives is working on its own version of the legislation.

The versions from the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House must be reconciled before a final version can pass and go to the White House for Trump to sign or veto.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell