- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

The House yesterday approved the Senate version of a bill that would hasten construction of the World War II Memorial on the Mall, which could begin as early as this summer.
President Bush already has said he will sign the bill, which the House approved in a voice vote. Once the bill is signed into law, construction can begin by late July, said memorial spokesman Mike Conley.
The bill would make final all previous decisions on the memorials site and design and end a lawsuit against the National Park Service that halted contracting on the $160 million memorial.
Mr. Conley said the memorial foundation would "pick up where it left off" when a lawsuit against the National Park Service was filed in October by Save the Mall, a civic group that opposes the memorials site and design. The legislation makes unnecessary a series of site-and-design oversight hearings by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) scheduled for next month.
Save the Mall spokeswoman Beth Solomon yesterday said her group is "profoundly disappointed" with Congress actions, calling the memorials site and design "an embarrassment" to World War II veterans.
NCPC officials have said they are pleased with the bill because it keeps the commission involved in deciding the projects details, such as the type of stone to be used, lighting and inscriptions.
Mr. Bush is likely to sign the bill on Memorial Day in a symbolic gesture to veterans, congressional sources said. The White House has not yet scheduled a bill signing, administration officials said.
The House last week approved 400-15 its version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Stump, Arizona Republican. The Senate on Monday approved its version of the Stump bill, which included some technical amendments, such as correcting the dates of approval for the memorial and site by the NCPC and the Commission of Fine Arts.
The Senate version also ensures the memorial is in agreement with the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, which grants the NCPC oversight of memorials on the Mall and specifies that the approval of the site and design will not be subject to judicial review.
Congress originally approved the site and construction of a monument in 1993. On Veterans Day 1995, President Clinton dedicated the site at the Rainbow Pool. Last Veterans Day, ground was broken at the site. Completion of the monument is now expected for the early part of 2004.
"Building a World War II memorial now, rather than later, is critical" to honoring the 16 million veterans who served in the war, Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois Republican said on the House floor.
Mr. Shimkus was joined by about a dozen other members who spoke in favor of the memorial and the site at the Rainbow Pool, located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said the memorials construction has been stalled by "a pure technicality" and that construction of the monument — which was approved last year by the NCPC, the Commission of Fine Arts and other federal agencies — should begin immediately.
"We are talking about a turning point in world history," Mr. Moran said.
He said after the voice vote that while he supports building the memorial, he wants his colleagues to realize "there is a limit to how much stuff we can have on the Mall."
"There is just not going to be enough room for another memorial of this size," he said.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the Districts nonvoting representative, said the Mall is "the urban equivalent of the Grand Canyon … there should never be anything planted … in the middle of the Mall."
Mrs. Norton, who opposes the memorials site, asked her fellow members of Congress to take a tour of the Mall.
In making "final and conclusive" the decisions relating to the monument made by the NCPC, the Fine Arts Commission and other federal entities, the site and design by architect Friedrich St. Florian will stand.
The NCPC has canceled hearings it had scheduled on the memorial and 7.4-acre site for June 13-14 because the Justice Department, as part of its preparation in the Save the Mall lawsuit, found that the NCPCs former chairman, Harvey Gantt, had cast invalid votes relating to the memorials site and design for two years.


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