President Obama is doing the right thing here, and the GOP is sure to show their true colors over him backing Alaska's bid to finally rename Mt. McKinley to Denali.
President Obama on Monday will announce a plan to rename Alaska’s Mount McKinley to Denali, the name that nearby natives have long used.By taking action to officially name the 20,000-foot peak Denali, Obama will take the Alaskan Natives side in a dispute that has stretched on for more than a century.
“Generally believed to be central to the Athabascan creation story, Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives,” the White House said in a Sunday fact sheet. “The name ‘Denali’ has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today.”
Alaska first formally requested the change in 1975.
It has often been a bipartisan legislative priority among Alaska’s congressional delegation to rename the mountain. Lisa Murkowski (R), the state’s senior senator and chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is responsible for the matter, has sponsored legislation in every session of Congress to do so since taking her seat.
At a hearing about the Denali bill in June, Murkowski said renaming the mountain “seems a fitting gesture and an appropriate way to honor the culture and history of Alaska Natives.”
“There is no need for this name confusion and controversy to continue,” she said.
He has the backing of both GOP senators in Alaska. And again, this is something that the state of Alaska has been trying to get done for 40 years now, it's nothing new.
But Republicans in Ohio, where President McKinley was from, aren't going to stand for this of course.
"There is a reason President McKinley's name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement issued Sunday night.
"I'm deeply disappointed in this decision," Boehner said after noting that McKinley served in the Army during the Civil War before representing Ohio in Congress and as governor.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement posted to social media that he was similarly "disappointed" in the decision to rename the mountain long named after "a proud Ohioan."
"The naming of the mountain has been a topic of discussion in Congress for many years. This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress," Portman said.
"I now urge the Administration to work with me to find alternative ways to preserve McKinley's legacy somewhere else in the national park that once bore his name," Portman added.
"This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans, and I will be working with the House Committee on Natural Resources to determine what can be done to prevent this action," Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)said in a statement.
But it's going to be a fight, and we all know the GOP can't resist picking a fight with the President. Dayton Rep. Mike Turner is ready to lead the charge.
"The Ohio delegation certainly didn't hear about this from the president," he said. "I’m certain he didn’t notify President McKinley’s descendants, who find this outrageous. Clearly this is a president who is not concerned with the deliberative process."
Turner would correct that by any means necessary. "William McKinley was assassinated in September 1901," he said. "We have an anniversary coming up when Congress returns from the recess. At that time I plan to go to the House floor to commemorate our assassinated president, and to begin part of the congressional effort for legislative action."
That could take many forms. Turner was ready to craft a 'sense of Congress' resolution, to write a standalone bill, to attach the un-re-naming of Denali to must-pass legislation. Asked if he would ask the House to pursue legal action over the president's move, he did not say no.
"There are a number of avenues, all of which can be pursued," he said. "The question is whether the president even has the authority to do this."
There is also the little matter of the fact that Alaska's native peoples have been asking for this for four decades, and until now, nobody's really paid attention other than President Obama. Ohio has more electoral votes than Alaska, you see, and is far more important politically.
But as I said earlier, President Obama did the right thing here. With Denali being in a national park, and the Secretary of the Interior having pretty clear jurisdiction over geographical names by federal law, I'm pretty sure there's nothing Orange Julius and his crew can do.
Well, short of the next Republican president naming it back. Go for it, Ohio Republicans.