The House Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to rename Washington National Airport for former President Ronald Reagan.
The bill, which still must go to the full House and Senate, won approval on a 39-28 vote after unusual partisan bickering. The Senate plans to consider the proposal as early as this Thursday.
Naming bills, which honor politicians and others by placing their names on federal buildings across the country, generally slide easily through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
But Democrats ardently opposed renaming Washington National Airport as Ronald Reagan National Airport, denouncing the removal of the name Washington and contending that the step was illegal.
“It’s obvious that the stone tablet has been handed down from on high, Mount Gingrich,” said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., a reference to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
“I do not see why we would name an airport for the president who fired 11,000 air traffic controllers,” he added, referring to Reagan’s firing of the striking controllers.
It was Reagan who signed legislation in 1987 turning National Airport over to a local governing agency. Opponents of the change said only that agency should be able to rename the airport.
An amendment to make the renaming contingent on approval of that board failed 37-30.