Senate Mulls Renaming Mount McKinley, Again

The state of Alaska officially calls the continent’s highest peak by the native name Denali. Mount McKinley – which is what the federal government calls the mountain – sits inside Denali National Park.

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So you can be forgiven if you mix up the names.

Peggy O’Dell, deputy director for operations at the National Park Service, said if Congress wants to rename the mountain, it can go right ahead.

“We don’t object. We’re happy to institute whatever decision they choose to make,” she said after the meeting.

Passing through Congress won’t be easy. This very exercise happened last year, as it has for decades, unsuccessfully.

The business meeting of the National Parks subcommittee passed with few sparks.

Colorado Democrat Mark Udall chairs the subcommittee. As he was concluding the meeting, he recounted his climb of Denali; and he’s okay with officially recognizing it as just that.

“Senator Portman hails from Ohio. I think President McKinley was Ohioan. I think we’ll have to work with Senator Portman to assure President McKinley gets the respect and attention he deserves. But I think this is a suitable step to take,” he said with the gavel in his hand.

As Udall said that, the lone Ohioan on the subcommittee entered the room. Senator Rob Portman hadn’t been seen yet, and he almost missed his chance to speak.

So the ever courteous Portman took the microphone and said he wanted to talk about just two of the 14 bills before the committee.

“A memorial to commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps, here in Washington, D.C. on federal land,” he began.

Many assumed he’d continue with the bill renaming McKinley, native son of Ohio, 25th president of the United States.

“We’re also reintroducing a bill to allow a plaque on the World War II memorial inscribed with the words of that President Roosevelt he prayed with the nation on D-Day,” he concluded.

And that was it.  No mention of Denali.

For years, the Ohio delegation has successfully defended the Mount McKinley name.  And the Alaska delegation has routinely failed in swaying them to give up that fight.

This first step might look like a step in the Denali direction, but because of the numerous fails in the past, it’s no sign things will be different this Congress.

If the bill manages to pass the subcommittee, whole committee and full Senate – it goes to the House, which is lead by Speaker John Boehner, who hails from the Great State of Ohio.