For many in the state of Alaska, Sunday was a day for rejoicing. But for Ohioans such as Speaker John A. Boehner, that was not the case.
The White House revealed Sunday President Barack Obama would be announcing the renaming of the mountain long known as Mount McKinley in honor of President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell formally signed an order regarding the designation on Friday.
"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. McKinley served our country with distinction during the Civil War as a member of the Army. He made a difference for his constituents and his state as a member of the House of Representatives and as Governor of the great state of Ohio. And he led this nation to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American War as the 25th President of the United States," Boehner said in a statement Sunday night. "I'm deeply disappointed in this decision."
Alaskans have long pushed for the name change, and both current GOP senators were quick to applaud the Obama administration for the move, which comes just ahead of the president's trip to tour Alaska.
"For centuries, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as the 'Great One.' Today we are honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali," Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a video message. "I'd like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska."
The dispute over the highest peak in the United States has gone on for decades, with longtime members of the Appropriations panels in their respective chambers, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio often at the forefront of the debate.
Sen. Rob Portman joined Boehner, his fellow Ohio Republican, in criticizing the move Sunday evening.
"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. 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 said.
But in his statement, freshman Sen. Dan Sullivan said Denali has been the mountain's traditional name.
"Denali belongs to Alaska and its citizens. The naming rights already went to ancestors of the Alaska Native people, like those of my wife’s family. For decades, Alaskans and members of our congressional delegation have been fighting for Denali to be recognized by the federal government by its true name. I’m gratified that the president respected this," said Sullivan.
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