Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) proposed on Tuesday a plan to create a bipartisan group ― or “gang,” as he called it ― of senators to study how best to honor the late Sen. John McCain in his workplace of more than three decades.
McCain (R-Ariz.), a figure respected on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, died Saturday at 81.
McConnell led a series of solemn tributes to the deceased senator on the floor of the Senate and used his remarks to suggest adding McCain’s portrait to the Senate Reception Room, a rare honor, or renaming a hearing room after him.
McConnell said the Senate is “eager to work on concrete ways ... to provide a lasting tribute to this American hero long after this week’s observances are complete.”
His suggestions skirted the idea proposed just after McCain’s death by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who said the Russell Senate Office Building should take McCain’s name.
The building, the Senate’s oldest, is named after former Sen. Richard Russell, a Georgia Democrat who held his seat for almost 40 years.
His legacy is now controversial. Russell was an opponent of civil rights legislation and co-authored the 1956 Southern Manifesto, a declaration read on the Senate floor criticizing the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in favor of desegregation. He died in 1971, and the building was named after him the next year.
Schumer said he planned to introduce in the Senate a resolution on renaming the building. In his remarks Tuesday on the senator’s death, Schumer again raised his proposal and said he would begin circulating a letter among his colleagues that day to drum up support.
Although his idea may seem a good fit, Schumer has reportedly yet to win over many Republicans in the Senate, including, apparently, McConnell, who notably did not mention the building in his planned remarks on Tuesday.
On Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post, “I think I’d be in favor of naming almost any building for McCain, but I’m not sure that I want to make a decision on a specific building at this point.”
Also that day, President Donald Trump was accused of insensitivity to McCain’s death, as the flag atop the White House was returned to full staff while those at the U.S. Capitol and elsewhere around Washington remained at half-staff.
Trump, a political foe of McCain, issued a statement Monday afternoon after receiving backlash to say the White House flag would remain at half-staff until McCain is interred. The president also said, “I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country,” two days after issuing a very brief condolence statement on Twitter.
As a reminder of McCain’s absence, his desk in the Senate chamber remained empty, covered in a black cloth topped with a vase of white roses.