- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

The Senate has taken up a House bill to speed up construction of the National World War II Memorial — a day after the lower legislative body overwhelmingly supported ending any further review of the memorial, a key Senate Republican said yesterday.
"I am very optimistic that we can get this done before Memorial Day," said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican. "Our goal is to clear out all the roadblocks."
The House on Tuesday passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Stump, Arizona Republican and House Armed Services Committee Chairman, in a 400-15 vote to put building the monument — approved by Congress eight years ago — on the fast track.
"I think this reflects that an awful lot of senators have heard from World War II veterans from across the country," Mr. Hutchinson said.
President Bush yesterday gave his unqualified support for the memorial and applauded the Houses action on Tuesday in passing the measure.
"It is more important than ever that we move quickly to begin construction if those who served are to see the nations permanent expression of remembrance and thanks," Mr. Bush said in a statement to The Washington Times.
The bipartisan bill approved by the House makes all previous decisions regarding the memorial by the National Capital Planning Commission, the Commission on Fine Arts and other federal agencies "final and conclusive." The bill, if approved by the Senate and signed by Mr. Bush, would also end a lawsuit filed against the National Park Service by the group Save the Mall, which is opposed to the memorials site and design.
"Congress has taken an important step toward thanking the men and women who served their country and gave their lives in World War II," Mr. Bush said of the Houses action.
Mr. Hutchinson, who sponsored a similar bill that had stalled in the Senate, said the Stump measure is what will be voted on after some minor revisions are made and the House votes on the bill again. Those modifications, Senate sources said, include things like changing a date to reflect when the NCPC actually approved the memorial and making it so lawsuits stemming from construction could be filed.
"Its so we dont preclude things that come up in the future," one source said.
Former President Bill Clinton dedicated the memorial site on Veterans Day 1995, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site last Veterans Day. A dedication ceremony for the memorial is scheduled for 2004.
More than $170 million in private funds has been raised for the memorial — $10 million more than the estimated $160 million price tag for the project, including costs for construction and maintenance by the National Park Service.
Several federal agencies, including the fine arts commission and the NCPC, already have approved the site and a design by architect Friedrich St. Florian.
The NCPC voted this month to hold two days of public hearings on the memorial next month to review the commissioners decision-making process.
After Save the Mall filed its lawsuit, the Justice Department discovered that the NCPCs former chairman, Harvey Gantt, had illegally cast votes approving the memorials design and site for two years.
Patricia E. Gallagher, the NCPCs executive director, has said that if the Senate approves the bill and it is signed by Mr. Bush before the scheduled June 13 and 14 hearings, those meetings would be canceled.
Beth Solomon, a spokeswoman for Save the Mall, said she is disappointed that Mr. Bush is endorsing the memorial and its site between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial at the Rainbow Pool.
"It would be a terrible shame if our government destroyed the National Mall and some of the most cherished national symbols in the name of World War II veterans," Ms. Solomon said.


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