- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Two Virginia Democrats on the Metro board could team for a "jurisdictional veto" to block congressional efforts to ensure signs for the subway stop at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport reflect the airport's formal name, board sources said yesterday.
If both men oppose the sign changes, it won't matter whether the other four Metro board members three Democrats and a Republican decide to bow to those in Congress who want the transit system's signs, maps and literature to use the Reagan name in referring to the airport.
In a related development, Republican sources on Capitol Hill yesterday said the region's congressional delegation and some in the House leadership would torpedo attempts by Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, to deny some federal funds to Metro if the system does not put Mr. Reagan's name on the airport stop and change related signs.
The Washington Times first reported last week that Mr. Barr wrote Metro to warn he would seek to hold up federal funds if the transit agency did not change signs at the Blue/Yellow Line Metro station and to conform with the act of Congress that renamed the airport to honor the 40th president more than three years ago.
In response, Metro General Manager Richard A. White said he would bring the matter to the board at its April 19 meeting.
Mr. White sent a letter Wednesday to Mr. Barr saying the congressman's inquiry was the "first official congressional request" Metro had received for a name change.
But Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and Metro board member, doesn't want Metro's "National Airport" station to bear Mr. Reagan's name.
"I intend to vigorously oppose the attempts to change it solely to buckle under to the threat of a member of Congress," Mr. Zimmerman said yesterday, adding that he would be opposed to a name change even if the airport were named the "Jimmy Carter Washington National Airport" in honor of the Democratic president.
Congress, which created Metro as a regional transportation authority in 1967, has overview of the transit agency and can make similar requests.
Metro receives federal funds via Congress' appropriation to the District as well as the Department of Transportation.
President Clinton and Congress approved the new airport name in 1997, and the change took effect the following year on Feb. 6 Mr. Reagan's birthday.
Mr. Zimmerman's opposition will carry the day with a "jurisdictional veto" if he picks up the vote of board member Fairfax County Supervisor Dana Kauffman, also a Democratic member of the Metro board. Sources said Mr. Kauffman leans toward nixing the name and sign changes.
A "jurisdictional veto" occurs when two of the six voting Metro board members representing the same jurisdiction Virginia, Maryland or the District cast dissenting votes on an issue. They prevail even if the majority votes in favor.
"I am confident that the board will come to feel that it would be a mistake to begin to [give in] to pressure," Mr. Zimmerman said.
For the time being, Mr. Kauffman said yesterday, he is keeping his options open and wants to consult with other legislators to "figure out how serious is the dollar issue" connected to Mr. Barr's threat.
"As a representative, I have to decide which is more important the philosophy or flow of dollars to keep the system moving," Mr. Kauffman said.
If the name and sign changes did go through, he added, it could "open a Pandora's box" in which Congress feels free to intervene in Metro operations at any time.
Of the six Metro board members who have a vote, those who have registered their support for the name change include D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1, Democrat; Decatur W. Trotter, a Democrat representing Maryland; and Cleatus E. Barnett, a Republican representing Maryland.
Board Chairman Gladys W. Mack, a Democrat who represents Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, could not be reached for comment and has not expressed an opinion in the past.
"I think the board will probably approve it," Mr. Barnett said. "I intend to be among the majority on it."
The issue resembles a partisan feud revisiting the original debate over renaming the airport rather than a coordinated attempt to ensure signs around the region are uniform.
A senior aide to a ranking House Republican said Mr. Barr has virtually no chance of threatening Metro funding, as Republicans try to appeal more to urban voters.
Many members of Congress who were once vocal supporters for the airport's name change and for the Metro station's name change last fall have been quiet, Hill sources say, because they want to "stay above the fray."
Mr. Barr was out of town and could not be reached for comment. His spokesman, Brian Walsh, said Mr. Barr will wait until the Metro board meets next month before taking any further action.
"Congressman Barr's position remains firm," Mr. Walsh said. "This should not be a political issue. It's disappointing that some members of the Metro board have made it and continue to make it a political issue."
The House recessed for the weekend yesterday, and Republican leaders were unavailable for comment. However, top aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue has not reached the leadership level of discussion.
"We've been so busy on taxes and budget, we frankly have not had time," one Republican aide said.
Another aide suggested Mr. Reagan might not approve of the costs associated with changing subway signs to include his name.
Metro has estimated the cost to change signs, maps and literature at about $400,000.
"It's called the Ronald Reagan Airport and the stop should be called the Ronald Reagan [Airport] Metro stop, but Ronald Reagan himself would not be excited about all the money that would have to be spent to do it," said the aide.
If Metro's board rebuffs Mr. Barr's desires for the name change, the congressman who played a key role in Mr. Clinton's impeachment will "examine all options available including possible provisions in the upcoming appropriations bills" to cut Metro funding, Mr. Walsh said.
He said Mr. Barr has spoken with the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican about taking Metro funding out of the D.C. budget.
Mr. Knollenberg's chief of staff, Paul F. Welday, said that while Mr. Knollenberg "understands [Mr. Barr's] frustrations" in wanting to get the name of the station changed, the newly minted chairman also wants a "clean bill."
"He wants to minimize any incumberence from achieving that goal," Mr. Welday said. "What we would oppose is any effort that works to deny basic public services to the residents of the District and the region."
The Times reported in October that Metro had no plans to change the name of the station, which prompted an outcry from Congress.
Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, even sought $150,000 be put in an appropriations bill to pay for Metro to change its signs.
An amendment for the money and direction to Metro to change the signs never materialized, so Metro never made the changes, officials have said.
"Bob Barr can't stop transportation appropriation in the Washington area," said another Republican aide. "But beyond that, there is a larger question of whether Congress has a better thing to do with its time than squabble with a local transportation authority on how to place its signage."
A senior Republican aide who works for a local senator said Mr. Barr's efforts would be stopped by members of Congress who represent the area.
"If you look at the regional delegation … this is a powerhouse that is going to do what is necessary to ensure that people [can use] Metro," the aide said. "These men and women who represent this delegation stay focused on their constituency."
Rep. James P. Moran Jr., Virginia Democrat who represents the area where the airport is, said he can see Mr. Barr digging in his heels.
"I think he can make it difficult, we can have a real fight on our hands because Bob is tenacious and determined," Mr. Moran said. "I don't think he's going to give up lightly or lose easily."
Audrey Hudson contributed to this report.


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