February 4, 1998
With a comfortable margin of victory in both the House and Senate, the Republican led Congress renamed Washington National Airport after Ronald Reagan.
KWAME HOLMAN: Washington National Airport is only minutes from Capitol Hill and is a primary point of arrival and departure for members of Congress. What the Republican majority in Congress now wants to do is rename National Airport after arguably the most popular Republican president of this century, Ronald Reagan.
REP. DAVID McINTOSH, (R) Indiana: Many of us would like to see this airport named after Ronald Reagan so that those passengers traveling to our nation's capital would be reminded of his call for freedom at home and abroad, and that that reminder would greet us every time we entered into this city.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans in both the House and Senate today were trying to rush through approval of the name change in order to honor the former president just ahead of his 87th birthday on Friday.
REP. HENRY HYDE, (R) Illinois: This man, Ronald Reagan, gave this country dignity. He gave it hope. He gave it optimism. It was his fervent desire to make this country a city on a hill.
KWAME HOLMAN: Visitors to Washington might not be aware until they arrive at National Airport that the airport actually is located across the Potomac River from Washington in Virginia and in the district of Democratic Congressman James Moran. And Moran is dead set against the name change.
REP. JAMES MORAN, (D) Virginia: The city of Alexandria, which is directly contiguous to the airport, is opposed to this. The greater Washington Board of Trade, which represents the business community, and the Washington metropolitan area is opposed to this. It's going to cost them hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to change all their advertising material. Why can't we respect the wishes of local government?
KWAME HOLMAN: And Congressman Moran pointed out Washington National Airport already is named after a president.
REP. JAMES MORAN: Many of you may not be aware of the fact that Franklin Roosevelt when this airport was conditioned told the architects he wanted the main terminal to look like Mount Vernon. It was clear that this was to memorialize George Washington.
KWAME HOLMAN: Moran suggested officially naming the airport George Washington National Airport, but that move was defeated. Another amendment would have created a commission on the naming and renaming of federal buildings and monuments.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) Connecticut: In a sense, Mr. President, it's become sort of a modern-day graffiti. They'll be running around naming things here willy nilly, both in these buildings on the capitol grounds and throughout this city. We're mere custodians of these facilities. We don't own them.
KWAME HOLMAN: There even was an amendment to remove the name of former FBI director Hoover from FBI headquarters.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) Nevada: No official in the history of this country has done more to violate the rights of people than J. Edgar Hoover.
KWAME HOLMAN: But all those amendments were defeated as well, and the debate returns specifically to the issue of renaming Washington National Airport in Ronald Reagan's honor.
REP. DICK ARMEY, Majority Leader: When he came to Washington, D.C., as the president of this land, he stood and delivered. In the first two years he whipped in place in a problem of economics that had baffled seven presidents before him. He got this nation on a new standing of prosperity, growth, price stability.
REP. DAVID OBEY, (D) Wisconsin: Would it not be more appropriate, for instance, to name the Bureau of Public Debt the Ronald Reagan Bureau of Public Debt? The act of this Congress that has made me more angry than any act since I've been here is the action that this Congress supinely took in 1981 when it whooped through here, with people in both parties voting for it, the Reagan budgets, which took the deficit, which had never been higher than $74 billion.
REP. JAMES TRAFICANT, (D) Ohio: Mr. Speaker, I question many of the economic policies like many Democrats. And we could take a look at Ronald Reagan, as any other president, and we could question many things. But I think we have to give the gipper his due here today. Ronald Reagan, probably more than any other single individual, was responsible for correctly identifying the Soviet Union as the Big Bad Bear, for pressing Communism around the world, and for challenging people of the free world to really actually tear down the Berlin Wall.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: This is a good proposal. It is a sound proposal. It is one which reflects President Reagan's commitment to history. And I hope every member will put aside partisanship, and every member will put aside pettiness, and decide to honor a very great man on this week of his birthday.
KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, the idea of renaming Washington National Airport in honor of former President Reagan was accepted overwhelmingly by the Senate. The House also passed it by a comfortable margin. And President Clinton has indicated he'll sign the legislation into law by Friday, joining in on the former president's 87th birthday celebration.