January 22, 2012

A preview from an upcoming edition of Finest Hour

by Elliot S. Berke

WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 19TH— The House of Representatives adopted a resolution, HR 497, calling for the installation of a bust of Winston Churchill in the Capitol building. The resolution was adopted on suspension, a legislative technique which limits debate on non-controversial issues but requires either a voice vote or a two-thirds recorded vote (the resolution passed on voice). No Senate action was required, because each side of the Capitol chooses its artwork.

The resolution was sponsored by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), a rare act for a Speaker of the House. Boehner told Finest Hour: “Winston Churchill was the best friend America ever had. I just felt it was time he found permanent residence in the Capitol the way he has found a permanent place in our common history.” In a similar vein, there is a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the London park across from Parliament.

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Boehner timed the vote to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Churchill’s first address to Congress on 26 December 1941. (Churchill also addressed Congress in 1943 and 1952, the record for a foreign leader.) His first address, just three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, had memorable moments: “Now we are the masters of our fate…as long as we have faith in our cause and an unconquerable will-power, salvation will not be denied us.”

One cannot help but note how the timing was yet another belated retort to the return of the Epstein Churchill bust, on loan to former President G.W. Bush, by President Obama in early 2009. The occasion produced a press frenzy that Arthur Balfour would describe as much that was trite and much that was true, but most of the truth was trite: see Finest Hour 142: 7-8. The Epstein bust also made a cameo appearance during the Republican presidential primary season: Governor Mitt Romney, when asked what he would bring to the White House, replied: “Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office. And if I’m president of the United States, it’ll be there again.” You can’t keep a good bust down.

Mr. Berke is cochairman of the Political Law Group at McGuireWoods LLP and was formerly counsel to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

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