‘McCain’ office building still bears name of segregationist
Richard Russell survived another scare. The segregationist Democrat’s name continues to adorn the Senate’s oldest office building despite promises by top senators that this would be the year that they finally erase it and replace it with the name of their newly departed colleague, Sen. John McCain.
“Nothing will overcome the loss of Sen. McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, posted on Twitter just after McCain’s office announced his death. Four months later, the resolution was never introduced. Mr. Schumer’s spokesman clammed up when asked what happened.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican floor leader, seemed cool to the idea of renaming the building but promised a bipartisan committee to look at other ways to honor McCain.
His office said it is still in touch with McCain’s family and some senators but added that they aren’t ready to announce anything. McCain, who often confounded colleagues in life, continues to do so in death as senators search for an acceptable honor.
They named the annual defense policy bill after him just before his death, but that is almost a pedestrian honor at this point. Plenty of lawmakers liked by their colleagues have received similar treatment on legislation that is dear to them.
Sens. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat, and Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, have suggested turning a bipartisan human rights caucus in the Senate into a commission and naming it after McCain.
“Meaning, elevate it by giving it more resources, some staff and a broader charter to be the convening place for conversation and action about human rights in the Senate,” Mr. Coons said.
A similar commission in the House is named after former Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress.
But the McCain commission legislation has not advanced out of committee.
Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who served with McCain and who backed Mr. Schumer’s idea to rename the Russell building, said it was fellow Republicans who scuttled that plan.
“We need a lot more support if we were going to do it,” he said. McCain does have some memorials. The Navy announced in July, a month before his death, that the John McCain guided-missile destroyer, already named after his father and grandfather, both admirals, would henceforth also be the senator’s namesake.
The Phoenix City Council last year voted to rename one of the terminals of Sky Harbor International Airport after McCain.
Google Maps jumped the gun in the wake of McCain’s death by following Mr. Schumer’s idea and changing the name of the Russell Senate Office Building to the McCain Building in the online maps app. Google said map information is crowdsourced and blamed an overzealous McCain fan — or Russell opponent.
Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a think tank, has been eager to ditch the Russell name for some time and hoped McCain would be the one to do it.
He said that hope fizzled out “like almost every other good, worthy idea in Trump’s Washington.”
“Rather than rename the building for an American hero and Senate titan, we are left with a monument to bigotry and civil rights obstructionism. It’s appalling, but it’s not surprising,” he said. “A human rights commission sounds like it might be a good idea. But John McCain deserves something big and chiseled in granite.”
Sen. Richard Russell was a Southern segregationist who nearly lost a building memorializing him this year. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he would introduce a resolution to change the name to honor Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Four months after McCain’s death, the resolution has never been introduced.