House Votes Overwhelmingly To Remove Confederate Statues From Capitol

The House on Wednesday approved legislation to rid the Capitol of Confederate statues, including the likenesses of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. All Democrats, 72 Republicans and one independent (Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan) voted for the bill, which now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.

It passed on a vote of 305-113.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who introduced the bill, said  removing the Confederate statues would “ensure that individuals we honor in our Capitol represent our nation’s highest ideals and not the worst in its history.”

“Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty,” he said before the House vote, The Associated Press reported. 

Under the bill, states would be compelled to remove and replace statues displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol that honor members of the Confederacy. U.S. states send two sculptures each depicting renowned residents to be part of the collection.

As AP noted, Wednesday’s bill would lead to the removal of at least 10 statues of Confederate officials ― including Lee, the Confederate Army general, and Davis, the president of the Confederate states ― from the collection. 

Three statues honoring white supremacists, including former Vice President John C. Calhoun and former North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock, would be immediately removed from the collection, AP said.

A bust of Taney ― who, as chief justice, wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, which declared that Blacks could never become citizens of the United States ― would also be expunged from the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Taney’s likeness would be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice. 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who introduced similar legislation in 2017, said Confederate statues are “painful symbols of bigotry and racism” that “have no place in our society and certainly should not be enshrined in the United States Capitol.”

“It’s past time that we ended the glorification of men who committed treason against the United States in a concerted effort to keep African Americans in chains,” she added. 

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is seen in the crypt of the U.S. Capitol.

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is seen in the crypt of the U.S. Capitol.

Though the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, its future is uncertain. 

Pressed by Politico as to whether the Senate would consider the bill, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment.

McConnell has previously dismissed the idea of removing Confederate symbols from the Capitol. 

“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” he said last month. 

President Donald Trump would also need to sign the legislation. Trump, however, has condemned the removal and defacement of Confederate monuments and symbols elsewhere during protests across the nation for racial justice.

“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders … and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” he said earlier this month of the Black Lives Matter protesters. 

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