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Surprise! The debate over the Washington Redskins’ name change is partisan.

BALTIMORE MD, AUGUST 23: Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) scrambles as the Washington Redskins play the Baltimore Ravens in a pre-season game at M & T Bank Stadium Baltimore MD, August 23, 2014. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

With Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) declaration to an ESPN radio show that he didn't think the Senate should call for a change to the name of Washington's professional football team, an obvious pattern became even more stark. Since the question of what to call the team moved to the front burner earlier this year, responses have been largely partisan and -- on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, anyway -- look very much like every other issue that calls for an opinion.

In a review of public statements on the subject, we see the same thing we always see. Nearly all Democrats and the independents that caucus with them hold one position. (In this case, that the team's name should be changed.) Moderate Democrats and those worried about reelection splinter off. Republicans oppose the move -- although, in this case, a majority of Republicans aren't on the record. And then there's Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), off doing his own thing.


The main way in which we are able to track senators' positions is thanks to a letter signed by 49 of them in May calling for team owner Dan Snyder to change the name. Most were Democrats -- but some Democrats didn't sign, which seems like a clear indication of opposition (or politically-driven ambivalence). Some put a period on that, telling interviewers why they didn't think a call for a name change was appropriate.

Republicans were not asked to sign, but many were eager to share their opinions anyway, which we catalogued below. That eagerness is in part because the debate over the team name (whatever it may be) is becoming, like so many other things, a partisan litmus test. (As our Scott Clement wrote earlier this week, that partisan split is increasingly apparent in the public at large, too.)

Brightly drawn partisan lines, of course, are also very much Senate-as-usual.


Supporting a name change

Democrats Republicans Independents

Opposing taking a position

Democrats Republicans Independents

No public opinion

Democrats Republicans Independents
  • Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
  • Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
  • John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
  • John Boozman (R-Ark.)
  • Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
  • Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
  • Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
  • Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)
  • Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
  • Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
  • Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)
  • Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
  • Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
  • Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  • Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
  • Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
  • John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)
  • David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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