McConnell nixes the idea, proposes placing a portrait of McCain in the Senate reception room
Hours after the death of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was announced, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed renaming the Russell Senate office building the McCain Building. Soon-to-be former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) quickly added his name to the proposal.
The idea, however, has been met with push back from other Senators, including McCain’s good friend Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and from the GOP base. The idea is a bad one for a number of reasons, but if the goal was to unify the Senate GOP, it’s working quite well.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday delayed efforts to rename the Russell Senate Office in honor of Sen. John McCain by creating an official group to vet a variety of memorial options.
McConnell announced plans for the bipartisan committee just days after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., first suggested renaming the building to memorialize McCain, who died Saturday at 81. Republican reaction to the Schumer proposal was mixed, even as Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain’s fellow Arizona Republican, signed on as a co-sponsor.
Schumer announced his suggestion shortly after McCain died. He said the proposal would honor McCain while also removing the name of former Sen. Richard Russell, D-Ga., who had an anti-civil-rights record during his tenure in the Senate.
“The man whose name he would replace, Sen. Richard Russell, a towering figure in the Senate of his day, was an avowed opponent of civil rights and the architect of the Southern filibuster, which long delayed its passage,” Schumer said Monday. “It’s time that we recognize that as times change, so do our heroes.”
The idea, apparently, is to rename the building for McCain, thus removing the name of a Democrat who has fallen from grace in his own party. This is an extension of the left’s push to destroy monuments and memorials and to rename a host of other things—from buildings to streets—if they were in any way associated with the Civil War South or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. The idea of renaming the building for these reasons does not sit well with Senators from southern states.
“Senator Russell was a well respected man from the South and up here too,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), adding that he was “a man of his time.”
“He was a well-respected senator,” Shelby said.
Russell is considered controversial because of his opposition to civil rights legislation.
Shelby noted that if reporters were going to judge Russell on his civil rights stance then they would also need to reevaluate the Founding Fathers.
“If you want to get into that you have to get into George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and all of our — most of our Founding Fathers, maybe with the exception of Hamilton,” he said. “It’s easy to prejudge what they should have done.”
Shelby was one of several Southern GOP senators who pushed back on the idea of taking Russell’s name off the Senate office building.
Georgia Sen. David Perdue — a Republican and close ally of Trump — touted Russell’s Senate work, saying on Tuesday that he was a “stalwart” of the military and involved in the Great Society, referring to the domestic program of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“This is a guy who was a giant of the Senate,” Perdue said. “So this renaming thing because of one issue, you know, is somewhat troubling. The fact that it’s been brought into this John McCain thing I think is inappropriate.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters that he would prefer to “find another way” to honor McCain.
“What I don’t want is to establish a precedent so that something named after John McCain is named after somebody else in the future,” Cassidy said.
Schumer, who has a knack for irritating even those Republican Senators who are sympathetic to his agenda, apparently failed to mention this idea before making the announcement. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was displeased.
Others, like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Schumer didn’t discuss the idea with other senators before making the announcement.
“It’s my understanding that Sen. Schumer announced it without even talking to a single Republican,” Collins said. “I think a better approach, especially since we’re honoring the legacy of someone who believes in bipartisanship, is for the two leaders to get together and decide if this is the best way to honor him or is there another way that might be more appropriate.”
Graham is also not enthused about renaming the Russell Building after his long-time friend and colleague.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of McCain’s closest friends is noncommittal on renaming the building.
Graham joked that they should rename the Capitol Visitor’s Center after McCain as a final poke at the late senator.
“He hated that place, so that’s why I want to name it after him,” Graham said. McCain disliked the $600 million price tag to build it.
[Senator Johnny] Isakson [R-GA] added: “Well he’d have a lot of things named for him if we did that for that reason.”
Ultimately, though, the renaming won’t happen. While Schumer is reportedly still pushing it, too many Republican Senators (moderates and conservatives) have rejected the idea, perhaps with an eye to November’s midterms.
McCain was very popular among Democrat voters (polling 71%), but was far less so among Republican voters (51%). Renaming anything after him would not be well-received by the GOP base.
In the indirect way of the Senate, the message was clear: They are not likely to rename a building for McCain, and Republicans are the reason. For all of the outpouring of tributes, many of his GOP colleagues would rather keep the name of a Southern segregationist Democrat on the building rather than risk riling up rank-and-file Republicans who are not universally appreciative of McCain’s self-styled maverick streak.
Among Republicans, his favorability rating stood at 51% — a dramatic lag from the 71% of Democrats who held him in favor, according to a Gallup poll earlier this month. This helps explain why Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer raised the offer of renaming Russell, and why Republicans were slow to embrace that.
. . . . Even in McCain’s home state of Arizona, the state GOP censured him. “McCain” is an epithet there and in conservative confabs.
Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is having none of it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday stalled an effort led by Sen. Chuck Schumer to quickly rename a prominent Senate office building for the late Senator John McCain.
McConnell announced he’d form a bipartisan “gang” to examine best ways to honor McCain’s legacy in the Senate, though he declined to mention Schumer’s idea to rename the Russell Senate Office building after the Arizona Republican.
“It’s a further tribute to our colleague that there’s no shortage of good ideas,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
He mentioned two other possibilities to honor McCain: naming the Senate Armed Services Committee room for the late chairman or adding a portrait of McCain to the Senate reception room.
He’s onto something here. Renaming the Russell building after McCain is a very bad idea and will not be well-received by the base, adding a portrait of McCain to some wall won’t bother anyone.DONATE
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