President Obama's Denali Renaming Gets Mixed Reactions in Congress

PHOTO: Denali is seen on Aug. 19, 2011.PlayBecky Bohrer/AP Photo
WATCH Obama Renames Mt. McKinley 'Denali' Ahead of Alaska Trip

The Obama administration’s decision to rename North America’s highest summit from Mount McKinley to its traditional Native American name, Denali, has divided lawmakers along geographical lines.

Many lawmakers from McKinley’s home state of Ohio were furious with the announcement Sunday, while Alaskan legislators welcomed the decision, which reverts the mountain back to its original name before Congress changed it in 1917 to honor the assassinated president, William McKinley.

The Ohio Republicans who weighed in on the decision, including Sen. Rob Portman and House Speaker John Boehner, were uniformly upset.

Boehner said in a written statement that he was "deeply disappointed" with the decision.

"There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy," Boehner said.

Ohio lawmakers have long regarded the preservation of McKinley’s name as an important home state issue.

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents the 13th district, introduced a bill in January 2013 to retain the name, saying, "Mount McKinley has borne the name of our 25th President for over 100 years. We must retain this national landmark’s name in order to honor the legacy of this great American President and patriot."

A spokesman for Ryan said he would not be weighing in on Sunday’s announcement.

Ohio’s senior senator, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, was less pointed in his reaction, expressing neither disappointment nor happiness that the mountain would now on be known by its native Athabascan name, which translates to "the high one" or "the great one."

"This announcement is about honoring the Athabascan people who call Alaska their home and its highest mountain, ‘Denali,’" Brown said in a statement. "President McKinley is a great Ohioan and streets and schools throughout the Midwest bear testimony to his legacy. I will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that future generations of Americans are aware of McKinley's legacy."

Just as the preservation of the name Mount McKinley is important to Ohio lawmakers, so too was its change to Alaskans, whose congressional delegation welcomed the news with unanimous excitement.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski tweeted a video reaction to the announcement featuring her posing in front of the mountain.

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan tweeted similarly.

And Rep. Don Young, a Republican, tweeted that the announcement was a foregone conclusion.