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Sen. Shelby pushes back on calls to rename Senate office building after McCain

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) slammed the brakes on calls to rename the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., after the late Sen. John McCain, instead wanting to take time to find a fitting tribute.

The building is currently named after the late Sen. Richard B. Russell, a powerful Georgia Democrat who served from 1933 to 1971. Ideas about changing the name have emerged recently due to Russell’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his integral role in slowing the legislation’s eventual passage.

Senate Minority Leader Charles “Chuck” Schumer  (D-NY) is now leading an effort, along with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), to rename the Senate’s oldest office building for McCain. Shelby, the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is not throwing his support behind this knee-jerk effort, instead wanting to bring people together to find a fitting way to honor McCain.
“It’s important for us to pay tribute to Senator McCain,” Shelby said in a statement. “Like I said, he was a brave American hero who served his country for sixty years.”

He continued, “We’ve got to take some time to consider how to best honor him. I look forward to considering the options with my fellow Senate colleagues.”

There is a fitting reason why Russell has his name on the building and that should not be whitewashed by political correctness.

“Richard Russell worked closely with President Kennedy and President Johnson,” Shelby explained. “He chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee along with the Senate Appropriations Committee. He was a prominent leader and was well-respected during his time here in the Senate.”

While not condoning their actions or beliefs, Shelby recognizes that we can not fairly judge historical figures by current standards.

“I’m a Southerner,” Shelby said, per Roll Call. “Russell was a man of his time, OK?”

“If you want to get into that, you have to get into George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and all of our Founding Fathers — most of our Founding Fathers, maybe with the exception of Hamilton,” he outlined.

Shelby continued, “You know, it’s easy to prejudge what they should have done. We didn’t live in that era. I’m glad I wasn’t there.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he is now planning to establish a group to “bring together ideas from current members, former colleagues, and friends … to ensure that a suitable, lasting tribute becomes a reality.”

Shelby made it clear that he wants to find a lasting and fitting way to honor McCain but in the way the late Arizonian would have wanted –  “through regular order.” Shelby is excited to “see what the process brings.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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