GOP senator wary of renaming building for McCain

A Republican senator says renaming the Russell Senate Office Building for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would set a bad precedent.

“I’d rather find another way,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy told reporters on Tuesday. “What I don’t want is to establish a precedent so that something named after John McCain is named after somebody else in the future.”

 “This is a question of making sure that however John is honored it is set in stone that John is always honored. I don’t want to establish a precedent that we can unhonor somebody in the future,” Cassidy added, noting that he would discuss the matter with fellow GOP senators at a weekly luncheon meeting.

Shortly after McCain died on Saturday after a year-long battle with brain cancer, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), proposed renaming the building in honor of the six-term Arizona senator, who for decades had an office on the 2nd floor of the building, which was originally called the “Old Senate Building” and renamed for Georgia Sen. Richard Russell (D) in 1972.

Fellow Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake joined the effort, telling reporters on Tuesday that he and Schumer sent a letter to their colleagues floating the idea.

“This is hardly precedent to rename buildings and items. I think that we ought to honor John McCain appropriately there are many ways to do it. This would be in my view a good one,” Flake said when asked to respond to Cassidy’s concern.

“I think that Sen. McCain is the right person to honor by renaming this building,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), one of McCain’s friends in the upper chamber, said. “It’s where the Armed Services Committee he chaired has its office, it’s where his offices were and I think that as a man who dedicated six terms in the Senate to serving the Senate that this would be a perfect and appropriate gesture to memorialize the service here.”

Other GOP senators, however, deferred to a process proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican wants to create a bipartisan group that can come up with a variety of ways to honor McCain’s service.

“The leader’s suggestion is a good one, put together a ‘gang’ that will look at appropriate ways to memorialize John’s contribution,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, noting that renaming the Russell building is “one of the issues.”

 “I’ll be anxious to see what the rest of the issues are that the gang brings up and what might be appropriate,” he added.

 Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who calls McCain a “hero,” and will likely fill McCain’s role as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said “we’ll be looking at that for the next three or four weeks, I understand, and during that time I think we want to see try to analyze what would John want.” 

— Molly Hooper 

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