More than four months after the death of Republican Sen. John McCain, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has yet to follow through with his pledge to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after the late Arizona lawmaker.
On Aug. 25, the fateful day that McCain passed away after a year-long battle with brain cancer, Schumer posted a heartfelt tweet memorializing the late war hero and promising to rename the Senate building in his honor. However, in a sign of just how low the partisan bickering has descended in Washington, senators can’t even agree on how to properly honor their late colleague.
A rocky relationship
Although they eventually came together to work on immigration reform and other legislation, Schumer didn’t always admire his Republican colleague.
“I didn’t get along with McCain. We didn’t know each other very well,” he told The New Yorker in a 2013 profile exploring their relationship. “We’ve had some fights on the floor. He once made a pejorative comment about Long Island and I blasted it and he got mad at that.”
But they later reconciled, and Schumer had nothing but praise for his late colleague following McCain’s passing.
“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them,” Schumer tweeted in August. “His dedication to his country and the military were unsurpassed, and maybe most of all, he was a truth teller — never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare.
“The Senate, the United States, and the world are lesser places without John McCain,” Schumer added. “Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him,” he promised.
But while Schumer shared kind words following McCain’s death, his resolution to rename the building after the late Arizona senator and former prisoner of war has apparently been placed on the back burner.
“Given that Senator McConnell indicated he would not bring up this resolution for a vote in 2018, we intend to continue trying to get Republican co-sponsors and introduce the resolution in the New Year,” the Senate minority leader’s press secretary, Justin Goodman, told The Daily Caller.
But renaming the Russell Building isn’t as complicated as passing typical congressional legislation. The resolution doesn’t require consultation with the House of Representatives or the White House, and a simple majority is all that is required for the measure to pass.
Erasing the past
The early 20th century Senate office building presently bears the name of a Georgia Democrat who served in the Senate for nearly four decades until his death in 1971. Like many mid-century Democrats, Sen. Richard Russell, Jr. spent much of his political career fighting civil rights reform and manipulating loopholes to keep anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation away from the Senate floor.
Russell drafted a document known by its unofficial title of “The Southern Manifesto,” which supported racial segregation in public schools after the Supreme Court banned the practice in 1954. As such, contemporary Democrats are anxious to see Russell’s name replaced — even if a Republican is granted the honor.
Across the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed an alternative resolution. The GOP leader wants to establish an “official group” equally composed of Republicans and Democrats to “bring together ideas from current members, former colleagues, and friends” to determine how to best honor McCain.
Although he is “still not ready” to announce any new developments, McConnell is reportedly in regular contact with the McCain family and is discussing possible tributes.