Committee approves bill naming 'Mount Reagan' in Nevada

March 30, 1981 file photo of President Ronald Reagan speaking to the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO at a Washington hotel.

March 30, 1981 file photo of President Ronald Reagan speaking to the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO at a Washington hotel.  ((AP))

A Republican congressman got a step closer to naming a Nevada peak after the late President Ronald Reagan, after a House committee approved the idea on Wednesday. 

The House Natural Resources Committee, on a voice vote, approved a bill from Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., that would name a part of Frenchman Mountain, located just east of Las Vegas, after the nation's 40th president. 

It's a small victory for supporters of dubbing a "Mount Reagan" -- a campaign that has turned out to be a steep legislative climb. 

Conservative activist Chuck Muth had originally pushed for the renaming, but got stymied last year when Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., filed a bill to name the sought-after peak after Maude Frazier, a fellow Democrat who also helped create the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

Heck's bill, reportedly filed at Muth's request, apparently targets a different peak. 

Republicans likely will push the bill through when it comes up for a vote on the House floor. But the Senate is another story. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada controls the Senate floor schedule. Asked whether Reid supports or opposes the measure, his spokeswoman, Kristen Orthman said: "He has higher priority land bills for Nevada that he would bring up" for a vote. 

And Heck endured some ribbing from Democrats before the voice vote on Wednesday. 

Democratic Rep. Pete DeFazio of Oregon said a more fitting tribute would be to name Yucca Mountain after Reagan. Steps taken to develop Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository accelerated during Reagan's presidency. Nevadans are overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed waste repository and members of the state's congressional delegation have worked diligently to kill it. 

"If we were going to name something after the president, it ought to be something that actually had to do with the president's service in office, and something the president supported that was extraordinarily significant to the state of Nevada," DeFazio said. 

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said he thought DeFazio's amendment was "terrific" but wanted to take it a step further and name the planet after Reagan. 

"We may want to consider going big with this Reagan-naming enthusiasm," Huffman said. "I'm beginning to see some possibilities in this." 

Huffman said his reasoning was that if the planet were named after Reagan, then Republicans might be more concerned with taking up legislation dealing with global warming. 

Republican members of the committee played along. 

"If the gentleman would introduce legislation, I would guarantee that he'll have a hearing on that bill," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, the chairman, in response to Huffman's idea for renaming the earth. 

The committee then rejected DeFazio's amendment and went on to pass the bill. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.