Republican bill would rename D.C.-area airport after Trump

In the 1990s, when Republicans launched a spirited campaign to rename Washington National Airport after Ronald Reagan, the entire endeavor seemed ridiculous. Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York complained at the time, “Washington National Airport is already named after a president — the first one.”

When GOP lawmakers mandated the change anyway, many locals shrugged it off. Sure, congressional Republicans wanted everyone to start pointing to “Reagan Airport,” but for quite a while, everyone was content to simply keep referencing “National Airport,” just as they’d done for many years. The local transit authority was reluctant to use scarce tax dollars on new signs and maps just to help the GOP scratch a partisan itch.

Republicans were nevertheless insistent, threatening to target agencies unless they started taking the party’s Reagan-related demands seriously. In time, GOP officials prevailed. Some still stubbornly refer to the airport’s original name, but they’ve lost the larger rhetorical war.

A generation later, it appears some in the party have set their sights on the other airport in the Washington, D.C., area. NBC News reported:

A group of House Republicans has introduced legislation to rename Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after former President Donald Trump. … The measure says it would “designate the Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia as the ‘Donald J. Trump International Airport.’”

I realize that this might seem like an April Fool’s Day joke. It is not. There is an actual piece of pending legislation (H.R.7845), sponsored by Republican Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania. The bill has even picked up six GOP co-sponsors — Florida’s Michael Waltz, Tennessee’s Andrew Ogles, Tennessee’s Chuck Fleischmann, Arizona’s Paul Gosar, Alabama’s Barry Moore, and Texas’ Troy Nehls — and it’s a safe bet that number will grow.

While a variety of Democrats responded with disgust, a handful of the party’s officials, noting the fact that Dulles is not an especially well-liked facility, jokingly suggested this morning that they like the idea. Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, for example, wrote online, “Dulles is an old, ugly airport that no one wants to see. So I think this is a fitting tribute to 45.”

All joking aside, it’s probably best not to get too worked up about the legislation — at least not yet. A bill with seven sponsors isn’t exactly an unstoppable legislative juggernaut.

The trouble, however, is that the effort to rename National Airport after Reagan was initially laughed off, too, right up until it became a major Republican priority.

It’s incredibly easy to imagine the former president seizing on this, investing time and energy into the idea, and making it a litmus-test issue for his congressional allies.

Five years ago, Trump toured Mount Vernon and argued that George Washington was insufficiently focused on branding when naming his Virginia estate. “If [Washington] was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” the then-president reportedly said. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff.”

Having his name on an airport seems like a reward Trump would enjoy a bit too much.