WASHINGTON — About the only thing former President Ronald Reagan doesn’t have named after him is a mountain, not one recognized by the federal government anyway.
Now, Republican Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada is pushing a bill that would name a part of Frenchman Mountain, located just east of Las Vegas, after the nation’s 40th president.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved Heck’s bill by voice vote Wednesday, but not before some Democrats on the committee had fun with the issue.
Democratic Rep. Pete DeFazio of Oregon said a more fitting tribute would be to name Yucca Mountain after Reagan. Steps taken to develop Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository accelerated during Reagan’s presidency. Nevadans are overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed waste repository and members of the state’s congressional delegation have worked diligently to kill it.
“If we were going to name something after the president, it ought to be something that actually had to do with the president’s service in office, and something the president supported that was extraordinarily significant to the state of Nevada,” DeFazio said.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said he thought DeFazio’s amendment was “terrific” but wanted to take it a step further and name the planet after Reagan.
“We may want to consider going big with this Reagan-naming enthusiasm,” Huffman said. “I’m beginning to see some possibilities in this.”
Huffman said his reasoning was that if the planet were named after Reagan, then Republicans might be more concerned with taking up legislation dealing with global warming.
Republican members of the committee played along.
“If the gentleman would introduce legislation, I would guarantee that he’ll have a hearing on that bill,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, the chairman, in response to Huffman’s idea for renaming the earth.
The committee then rejected DeFazio’s amendment and went on to pass the bill.
Reagan’s name is ubiquitous. A long list of landmarks, buildings, highways and schools bear his name. Virginia has Ronald Reagan International Airport just outside the nation’s capital. Indiana has Ronald Reagan Expressway and Ronald Reagan Parkway. California has two parks named after Reagan and seven elementary schools. North Dakota even has a former intercontinental ballistic missile site named in his honor.
But a mountain? Well, the state of New Hampshire renamed Mount Clay to Mount Reagan, but the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the official scorer of geographic nomenclature, declined to go along, citing a reluctance to change a longstanding historical name. The board’s minutes from the May 2010 meeting state that the rejection was in no way intended to be a negative reflection on Reagan’s legacy.
In the end, however, the final say on geographic names goes to Congress.
House passage of Heck’s bill is expected. The Senate is another story.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada controls the floor schedule. Asked whether Reid supports or opposes the measure, his spokeswoman, Kristen Orthman said: “He has higher priority land bills for Nevada that he would bring up” for a vote.
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