U.S. House approves renaming Decatur veterans facilities after Isakson, Cleland

WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Decatur will soon bear the names of former Georgia senators who were known as champions of service members.

The U.S. House on Thursday approved legislation renaming the Veterans Affairs Medical Center after U.S. Sen. Max Cleland. Minutes later, the House signed off on renaming the Department of Veterans Affairs’ administrative offices on the same campus after U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

The Senate had already passed both bills, so they now head to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

Isakson, who died in December, was a Republican known for working across the aisle on legislation related to health care and other services for veterans.

“Our veterans deserve the best, and Senator Isakson always fought for them,” U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff said in a statement after the vote. “Renaming the Atlanta VA Regional Office in his honor will inspire us to stand up for Georgia’s veterans every day like Senator Isakson did.”

Ossoff took the lead on the bill in the Senate; U.S. Reps. Rick Allen of Evans, a Republican, and Sanford Bishop of Albany, a Democrat, did the same in the House. It was approved by a vote of 418-2, with two far-right conservatives opposed.

The legislation honoring Cleland was led by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams. It passed on a vote of 359-62, with only Republicans opposing the measure honoring a Democrat.

The entire Georgia delegation signed on as sponsors of both bills and voted “yes” on Thursday.

Cleland, who served as the head of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter, was grievously injured during the Vietnam War. He died a month before Isakson.

Bishop during debate earlier in the week said he was glad for the opportunity to recognize a friend.

“Sen. Cleland lost both legs and an arm, but the footprints that he left and is leaving as his legacy for veterans will be there forever,” Bishop said. “And I am happy to urge my colleagues to support this legislation, which will appropriately name this facility in his honor.”