U.S. Senator John McCain, who died Saturday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda in Washington this week, a rare honor given to few statesmen.

What does it mean to lie in state?

Lying in state is an honor that has only been given to fewer than three dozen people. Only people who are entitled to a state funeral are allowed to lie in state, which includes a president, a former president, a president-elect or any other person designated by the president. Members of Congress may lie in state. Private citizens have been given a similar privilege, but the honor is called lying in honor.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, the casket of those lying in state rests on the catafalque (coffin support) that was constructed for the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln.

Who decides on the honor?

The approval of the congressional leadership or a resolution by Congress is needed to allow a person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime ally of McCain, said the decision for McCain to lie in state came “in coordination with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.”

McConnell said in a statement, “I appreciate my colleagues and the entire Senate and House family’s assistance with this honor.”

Where does the tribute take place?

The casket is placed in the Capitol rotunda, a circular room in the center of the Capitol that sits directly beneath the Capitol dome, which rises nearly 55 meters. According to the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol’s rotunda is considered “the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens.”

Who has laid in state or honor?

The first person to lie in state was former House Speaker Henry Clay in 1852. Others include former presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, and Dwight Eisenhower. Private citizens include minister Billy Graham and civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who is the only woman to have received the honor.

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