Politics

Boehner To Request Arlington Ceremony for Buckles

UPDATE: Friday 5 p.m.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) says the "bickering" over whether to allow Frank Buckles, the longest living World War I veteran, to lie in honor or state in the Capitol rotunda "does not do him "justice."

 ouse Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are reaching out to the Pentagon to hold a tribute to Buckles at Arlington National Cemetery instead.

No one has laid in either state or honor since President Ford in late 2006.

Buckles lived in Capito's Congressional district in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

"I hope Congress can quickly come to an agreement, as this bickering does not do justice to Mr. Buckles or his fellow World War I veterans who he's come to represent," Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett of the Maryland district next door to Capito's, and member of the House Armed Services Committee, also jumped into the discussion.

"The honor to lie in the rotunda of the Capitol is not for an individual, but in recognition of extraordinary service to our country," Bartlett said in a letter to Boehner and Reid asking that Buckles be recognized in the Capitol.

"As the last surviving veteran of WWI, Mr. Frank Buckles is the last representative of an extraordinary generation of Americans who answered the call to serve, defend and preserve democracy in the world," he wrote.

Both of West Virginia's senators are hitting House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hard, accusing him of standing in the way of an effort to honor World War I veteran Frank Buckles at the U.S. Capitol.

Buckles was the last surviving American service member of the first World War. Buckles, who lived in Charles Town, West Virginia, died over the weekend at the age of 110.

Boehner, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), want to honor Buckles, but not at the Capitol. Boehner's office says the speaker and Reid are reaching out to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to salute Buckles at the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) want to honor Buckles during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Rockefeller's resolution would authorize Buckles to lie in "honor" in the Rotunda. But House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) wrote a letter to Boehner earlier this week, requesting that Buckles lie in "state" in the Rotunda.

Lying in "state" is one level higher than "honor" and is traditionally reserved for presidents.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who represented Buckles in Congress, introduced legislation to recognize Buckles and all WWI service personnel.

"This is a big disappointment and a surprising decision by the Speaker," said Rockefeller.

In a statement, Manchin called Boehner's efforts to hold the ceremony across the Potomac River "ill-advised."

It's rare for the body of anyone to lay in "state" or "honor" in the Capitol Rotunda. During a such a ceremony, the Capitol is opened so the public can file past a flag-draped coffin positioned in the middle of the Rotunda. The passersby then pay their respects.

A Rotunda ceremony is typically reserved for presidents and other government figures, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Sen. Claude Pepper (D-FL). The practice of honoring the dead in the Rotunda dates back to Abraham Lincoln.

The U.S. has only paid homage to a handful of unelected figures in the Rotunda. President Ford was the last to lay in state in early 2007. Before that, civil rights figure Rosa Parks so was honored in 2005. President Reagan lay in state after his 2004 death. Congress allowed Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson of the U.S. Capitol Police to lay in honor after they were killed during a 1998 Capitol Hill shootout.

Gibson and Chestnut remain the only two people ever killed defending the U.S. Capitol.

President Bush granted Buckles a waiver so he could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. A waiver was necessary because of Buckles low rank. Buckles served as an ambulance driver in England and France.

Mike Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said that the speaker believes Arlington National Cemetery is the best venue for a ceremony to pay tribute to Buckles.

"Everyone honors Mr. Buckles' service to the United States, and the extraordinary sacrifices made by every member of our Armed Forces who served in World War One," said Steel.

- Fox's Trish Turner and Justin Fishel contributed to this report.