“There’s no point in me remaining on a bill when I’m being accused wrongfully of trying to jeopardize the independence of the District of Columbia, when I’ve been a major supporter before and since being elected to Congress,” Cleaver said. “I’m almost resentful of the District people who are accusing me of doing something to them when I’ve always been one of their supporters.”
His Democratic allies, Cleaver said, will likely drop off with him, sparing themselves from criticism.
Chance for Survival?
Norton thinks there might still be a chance for compromise.
At a hearing on Poe’s bill last week at the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Land, Peter May of the National Park Service indicated that the legislation in its current form could run afoul of the Commemorative Works Act.
May, the associate regional director for lands, resources and planning for the NPS’ National Capital Region, told the panel that the law prohibits “superimposing another subject on an existing memorial, particularly if new features are added.”
May said expanding the District’s World War I memorial also would violate a requirement that “the site and design for the new memorial be developed in a public process.”
He suggested that Pershing Park could be a suitable alternative. Near the White House, the First Division Monument and the Second Division Memorial, the park’s statue of famed World War I Gen. John Pershing includes an inscription honoring those who served in the U.S. Navy and the American Expeditionary Forces.
Though Fountain, Poe and others have maintained that they want their national memorial to have the prestige of placement on the National Mall, Norton said the NPS’ position could force them to rethink their stance.
Norton and Cleaver said they were trying to get Fountain, Poe and others in a room together this week. In the event an agreement can’t be reached, Cleaver said he doesn’t imagine the bill in its current form will have much more of a future.
“[House leadership] could say, ‘Two months of conflict and controversy — we’ll just leave it alone,’” Cleaver said. “We will kill the bill, and hopefully, the Senate and people around the world will be able to see that this Congress can’t pass a simple bill to celebrate the centennial in recognition of ... World War I. I’m really sad.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.