‘Mc­Cain’ of­fice build­ing still bears name of seg­re­ga­tion­ist

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND GABRIELLA MUÑOZ

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.

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