Sen. Chuck Schumer Introduces Resolution To Rename Senate Office Building For McCain

Aug 27, 2018
Originally published on August 27, 2018 6:07 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday, will lie in state in the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday. And on Friday, he'll lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda with a memorial service the following day at Washington National Cathedral. Some in the Senate want to cement McCain's legacy by renaming a Senate office building in his honor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is leading the way. Here he is on yesterday's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED

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CHUCK SCHUMER: I'd like when little children visit the Senate and they say, who was John McCain - because the building was named after him - to have their parents and grandparents explain it to them.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Kelsey Snell is following this for us. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: Renaming a Senate office building would be a major gesture. Why is Schumer suggesting this?

SNELL: Yeah, it is a huge move, and it's one we haven't seen in decades. And he's doing it in tandem with a few other senators. Here's how he explained it just a little bit ago on the Senate floor.

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SCHUMER: So I'll be introducing a resolution with Senator Flake to change the name of the Russell Building to the McCain Building.

SNELL: So this is a big step. There are only three Senate office buildings. And it's not really traditional for this to be the response when somebody passes away. It's particularly notable because Democrats didn't move to name a building in the honor of Ted Kennedy, who was Schumer's mentor...

SHAPIRO: A lion of the Senate.

SNELL: Yeah. And so that - for them to do this now, to recognize McCain's death that way, is a big step.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Schumer mentioned that it's now called the Russell Office Building. Why this specific one?

SNELL: Yeah. Some have noted that McCain worked in this building for his entire 30-plus-year career in the Senate. But it's also because Democrats have a complicated relationship with Russell - Richard Russell, the building's namesake. And Schumer admitted as much in his speech a little bit ago.

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SCHUMER: It's time that we recognize that as times change, so do our heroes.

SNELL: And he's talking there about the fact that Russell was a staunch opponent of civil rights and even led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention to protest the fact that the Civil Rights Act was signed. So this is - it's a big move, and it would also just in a point of politics rebalance the number of Democrats being represented in these names. It'll go from two to one (laughter).

SHAPIRO: We mentioned the memorial services being planned in Arizona and Washington. What else is in the works?

SNELL: Yeah, I think the one that people are going to be watching really closely is that McCain will be lying in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. And that's particularly notable because it doesn't happen very often. People lie in honor, but to lie in state is something that hasn't happened since 2012 when Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii passed away while in office. So this is a big one. And then that event on Saturday will lead to an event on Sunday in Annapolis where there will be a private ceremony, and he will be laid to rest there.

SHAPIRO: Even as all of this planning is happening for the week of memorials, there has been some controversy. People arriving at the White House this morning - journalists and others - tweeted photos of the White House flag flying at full-staff while all over Washington, D.C., flags were at half-staff. This evening, the White House lowered its flag back again.

SNELL: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: What's happening?

SNELL: So there was drama throughout the day. They were kept at full-staff in the morning. And then, as you note, they were lowered to half-staff eventually, as is the tradition. So this follows years of bad blood between McCain and Trump, and they had never been shy about criticizing each other. And it kind of started when Trump offended veterans and McCain by saying he wasn't a hero because he was captured.

Now, in - U.S. flag code says that flags should be ordered at half-staff for when a member of Congress dies, but that only lasts for the day of the death and the day after. It's up to the president to issue a proclamation for that to be extended. Trump didn't do that at first, and it took him many, many hours before he got around to doing so.

SHAPIRO: And then the White House did put out a statement late today.

SNELL: They did. They put out a statement.

SHAPIRO: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell, thanks so much.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.