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Senators Push to Rename NATO Headquarters After John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shakes hands with Montenegrin army officers in Podgorica, Montenegro, on April 12, 2017, as he congratulated Montenegro for its upcoming NATO membership and blasted Russia for its attempts to interfere in the Balkans. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

WASHINGTON — The push to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after late Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has run into opposition from southern senators, and now there’s a new resolution urging NATO members to rename their headquarters after McCain.

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is located in Brussels, would have to agree to a name change. Officials began to voice support for the idea late last month, including former NATO secretaries general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Lord George Robertson and Javier Solana, who wrote in The Times of London that “despite his being a U.S. Senator, across Europe we all felt that John McCain III was one of our own.”

The trio wrote that “few things symbolise this alliance, and the enduring benefits of American global leadership, more vividly than the life and work of John McCain.”

McCain, 81, passed away Aug. 25 at his home in Sedona, Ariz., 13 months after announcing that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The resolution introduced in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and in the House by Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) recognizes the “immense benefits to the United States and the world of the NATO alliance” and “strongly supports the renaming of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, after Senator McCain.”

It “calls on all NATO members to support renaming NATO headquarters after Senator McCain, in recognition of his long and ironclad support for NATO” and “urges the President to support renaming NATO headquarters after Senator McCain and to direct appropriate officials at the Department of State and the Department of Defense to advocate for their counterparts in NATO member states to support renaming NATO headquarters after Senator McCain.”

Co-sponsors in the Senate are Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Co-sponsors in the House are Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) quickly introduced a resolution to change the name of the Russell Senate Office Building to the McCain Senate Office Building.

The building is currently named for former Sen. Richard Russell Jr. (D-Ga.), who was president pro tempore of the Senate when he died in 1971. There have been calls to rename the office building for years as Russell was a segregationist who led a Southern boycott of the Democratic National Convention after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. He also wrote the final version of the Southern Manifesto opposing integration.

Southern Republican senators have voiced opposition. “This was an icon in the United States Senate. He was Lyndon Johnson’s close adviser. They did the Great Society together. So, people would criticize Richard Russell for maybe being on the wrong side of the integration movement, but my goodness he turned around and got the school lunch program done. He did that himself,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not committed to the Russell name-change proposal and said he’d be appointing a bipartisan committee after Labor Day to discuss the best way to honor McCain.