When Sen. John McCain died at age 81 in August, there was much nostalgia for the self-described “maverick.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, waxed poetic about McCain’s stature.
“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them,” Schumer said in a statement after the Arizona Republican’s death. “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.”
And he made a vow: “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.”
The Senate didn’t need support from the House, or from President Trump, to sign off on the move. Senators simply needed to take a vote to rename a current Senate building. Targeted was the Russell Senate Building, named in the 1970s after former Georgia Democratic Sen. Richard Russell, a segregationist who vociferously opposed the Civil Rights Act.
Four months later, the resolution was never introduced, The Washington Times reports.
Mr. Schumer’s spokesman clammed up when asked what happened.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican floor leader, had seemed cool to the renaming idea, instead promising a bipartisan committee to look at other good ways to honor their departed colleague.
His office said it is still in touch with McCain’s family and some senators but isn’t ready to announce anything.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who served with McCain, “said it was his own fellow Republicans who scuttled that plan,” the Times reported. “We need a lot more support if we were going to do it,” he said.
The move initially had support among Republicans. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Utah Republicans, for instance, got behind the name change.
“Senator Hatch believes it’s a worthy goal and looks forward to working with the majority leader to accomplish it,” Hatch’s deputy chief of staff, Matt Whitlock, said at the time.
“Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a think tank, has been eager to ditch the Russell name for some time and had hoped McCain would be the one to do it,” the Times reported. And somehow, Bennett blamed Trump once again, saying the name change 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.