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GOP lawmakers balk at renaming Senate office building after Sen. John McCain

Some GOP senators are resistant to a proposal that would rename the Russell Senate Office Building to the McCain Senate Office Building. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are co-sponsoring a resolution to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). But not all Republicans are on board with the idea.

What's the plan?

The idea was originally proposed by Schumer "so that future generations will study [McCain's] example," he said on Twitter.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed the proposal of renaming the Russell Senate Office Building to the McCain Senate Office Building, saying that it would be a "great tribute."

"Decades to come, everyone who came to Washington would know the very special place that John McCain held ... and will continue to hold," she tweeted.

In a dear colleague letter to their fellow senators, Flake and Schumer wrote that "renaming the Russell building in [McCain's] honor ensures that his story will be told with the hope that inspiration becomes motivation and future leaders emerge with his brand of courage and commitment."

What's the background?

The Russell Building is named after the late Democratic Sen. Richard Russell (Ga.), who filibustered the Civil Rights Act and "supported white supremacy," according to Politico. It is the oldest of the three Senate office buildings and was opened in 1909.

Prior to being named after Russell in 1972, the building was called the Old Senate Office Building, affectionately dubbed the "Old S.O.B." by staffers.

Given the building's former nickname, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told CNN he "can't imagine a more appropriate place to put John McCain's name."

But other senators aren't so sure.

What's the resistance about?

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters, The Hill reported, "Senator Russell was a well respected man from the South and up here too," reiterating that he was a "man of his time."

Shelby added, "If you want to get into that, you have to get into George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and all of our — most of our Founding Fathers, maybe with the exception of Hamilton."

"It's easy to prejudge what they should have done," Shelby said.

The Hill reported that Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) praised the legacy of Russell on Tuesday.

"This is a guy who was a giant of the Senate," Perdue said. "So this renaming thing because of one issue, you know, is somewhat troubling. The fact that it's been brought into this John McCain thing I think is inappropriate."

Other senators expressed hesitation at renaming Russell as a knee-jerk response to McCain's passing. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said of McCain, "He'd be the first person — if he were here — to say, 'No, we need to put this through a process that would be like the historic process used in the Senate. I'm sure the Senate will find a way to honor him, but I think the way he'd want to be honored is just as a person who did his best."

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) agreed, saying he would prefer to "find another way" to honor McCain.

"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," Cassidy said.

What now?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he would be organizing a "gang" of senators to determine the best way to honor McCain.

"In order to make sure we realize these intentions," McConnell said, "I'd like to put together an official group that can collaborate and bring together ideas from current member, former colleagues and friends. It will be bipartisan — as only befits John's legacy."

One last thing…
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