Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are working on a bill that would rename the “problematic” Russell Senate Office Building after the late Sen. John McCain.
The pair first suggested the change over the weekend.
“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,” Schumer said in an interview. Pelosi and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who is leaving office after this term, added their support on Sunday.
The proposal certainly has its roots in McCain lore: “McCain’s office was housed in the Russell building, and the committee he chaired, the Senate Armed Services Committee, often meets in the building as well,” TIME Magazine reports.
But part of the allure of changing the name of the Russell office building, which was built in 1995, also lies in “changing times” and a national push to erase “problematic” historical figures from public places of honor. Russell may have been the “Senator’s Senator,” according to the same TIME article, but he was also a strict segregationist and an archetypal Southern Democrat of the civil rights era, opposed to everything from anti-lynching bills to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Russell’s history is one Democrats are probably keen to forget, and McCain’s death gives them the perfect opportunity.
The change does present some concerns, however. Russell’s family objects to his classification as a civil rights villain, and replacing Russell’s name gets to the core of an ongoing controversy over whether otherwise important figures should be removed from public land over their opinions, which now in a more progressive age make us uncomfortable.
Schumer is expected to officially introduce the bill this week, and there will be bipartisan support.