WASHINGTON – Rarely does a proposed new national park run into this kind of opposition, but this one deals with the A-bomb.
Legislation to establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park failed to get the needed two-thirds approval in the House on Thursday.
The 237-180 vote in favor fell short after Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, complained that he saw no reason to “celebrate ingenuity that was used to put all humanity at risk.”
The potential cost of the new park also was a concern. Despite the bill’s GOP sponsor, Washington state’s Rep. Doc Hastings, 112 Republicans voted no.
“We can’t take care of the parks that we have,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
But with a House majority supporting the concept, Hastings said he hoped to bring the bill back for another vote before the end of the year under procedures that would require only a simple majority for approval.
“While it didn’t receive the supermajority needed to be sent to the Senate today, a big bipartisan majority of the House voted to establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park,” said Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “We’ve shown there is support for this park and will be working toward the goal of enacting this into law before the end of this year.”
Facilities that worked to develop the bomb in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Los Alamos, N.M.; and Hanford, Wash., would be included in the park.
Kucinich, the bill’s most outspoken critic, told colleagues: “At a time when we should be organizing the world toward abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us, we are instead indulging in admiration at our cleverness as a species.”
The iconic anti-war liberal and proponent of a federal Department of Peace added: “The bomb is about graveyards; it’s not about national parks.”
The Atomic Heritage Foundation, one of the bill’s proponents, said it expected the National Park Service to present a balanced picture.
Cynthia C. Kelly, the foundation’s president, said the National Park Service would interpret the Manhattan Project and its legacy “in all its complexity, giving voice to all sides of this contested history. It is important that we remember and reflect upon the past.”
Earlier this year, the group noted that other controversial episodes in the nation’s history, including the Civil War and Japanese-American internment camps, had been interpreted “in an unbiased and professional manner by the National Park Service.”
The Interior Department supported the park’s creation, noting that the development of the atomic bomb was “one of the most transformative events in our nation’s history: It ushered in the Atomic Age, changed the role of the United States in the world community, and set the stage for the Cold War.”