- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

The U.S. Senate yesterday joined the House and approved legislation to put construction of the World War II Memorial on the fast track and end any further review of the monument or its site on the Mall.
By unanimous consent, the Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, that moves construction on the memorial forward and makes technical corrections to a bill — sponsored by Rep. Bob Stump, Arizona Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — that passed the House last week, 400-15.
The Senate then approved, by unanimous consent, Mr. Stumps bill, which now goes back to the House for approval. The House is expected to take up the amended bill as early as today, according to senior House aides.
President Bush, who has voiced unwavering support for the memorial that will be built at the Rainbow Pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, is expected to sign the bill once approved by the House.
"The president looks forward to signing the bill which will expedite the construction of a memorial to the men and women who served their country during World War II," a White House spokesman said.
The amendment sponsored by Mr. Stevens and nine others would align the bill with the 1986 Commemorative Works Act. It also corrects the date of the approval of site and design by both the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Commission of Fine Arts, and specifies that the decisions of federal agencies and the dates of those decisions regarding the monument will not be subject to judicial review.
"This legislation will remove these obstacles and require the construction process to promptly go forward," Mr. Stevens, a World War II veteran, said in a statement. "We want this memorial finished while a significant number of our comrades-in-arms are still alive. We want to be there when this memorial is opened."
Congress originally approved the memorial and its site in 1993. Since that time, there has been persistent opposition to the memorial and the site. Last October, the civic group Save the Mall filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service to stop the memorial from being built. The legislation would nullify the lawsuit.
The NCPC, which had approved the memorial last year, has scheduled another set of hearings for next month because the Justice Department, as a result of the lawsuit filed, found that the NCPCs former chairman, Harvey Gantt, had for two years cast invalid votes on the design and site location for two years.
If approved before June 13 and 14 by the Senate and Mr. Bush, those hearings would not be held, NCPC Executive Director Patricia E. Gallagher has said.
Proponents of the memorial say the project should be expedited because more World War II veterans die every day.
Former President Bill Clinton dedicated the memorial site at the Rainbow Pool 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.
The project is expected to cost $160 million. More than $170 million has already been raised.
Beth Solomon, a spokeswoman for the Save the Mall coalition, said the group was "profoundly disappointed that the U.S. Congress has chosen to overturn federal laws and eviscerate citizens rights in order to build a World War II memorial that is an embarrassment to World War II veterans."
Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican, said the Senates action "is an important step toward permanently honoring the tremendous sacrifices that were made" during World War II.
Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican, who offered both the amendment and the bill on the Senate floor, said the memorial "is a symbol of the sacrifices of the entire generation, not only those who went abroad to the battlefield but those here at home and their families."
NCPC Chairman Richard L. Friedman said he is pleased with the Senate bill since it maintains the integrity of the Commemorative Works Act, which grants oversight responsibility for new memorials to the NCPC and the fine arts commission.
"We are gratified the Senate has passed a bill that ensures the [NCPC] will have an ongoing role in the review process," Mr. Friedman said.


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