House

GOP lawmaker breaks with Trump, says Confederate statues should come down

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) broke with many members of his party, including President Trump, by expressing support for removing Confederate statues in the wake of violence stemming from a white supremacist march in Virginia this month.

Duffy, who typically defends Trump's policy positions, said at a roundtable in Wisconsin that he doesn't think Confederate leaders should be glorified.

"I look at those Southern leaders - that rebellion cost hundreds of thousands of American lives in the Civil War," Duffy said during a discussion on drug abuse on Thursday, according to the Wausau Daily Herald. "They were fighting to keep people enslaved. I don't honor what they were fighting for."

But Duffy added that he thinks localities should choose "whether they should have those statues up, whether they should be removed to museums or to other parks," instead of letting the statues come down by "mob rule."

White supremacists originally scheduled a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 to protest the city council's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car allegedly driven by a suspected white supremacist rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters.

Debate over Confederate monuments and symbols reignited in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. Multiple localities began moving to take down Confederate statues, such as in Baltimore and the University of Texas at Austin.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus revived calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol complex, an effort endorsed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But only states currently have the power to remove and replace statues in the Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. There at least nine statues of Confederate leaders and their sympathizers, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Lee.

President Trump defended Confederate statues in a series of tweets last week and questioned whether their removal could lead to a slippery slope.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," Trump tweeted. "You can't change history, but you can learn from it.

"Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

Duffy isn't the first House Republican to endorse removing Confederate statues.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told The Hill that Confederate monuments in the Capitol should be removed and relocated to a museum or battlefield. Otherwise, the statues should be given context as symbols of slavery, he suggested.

"When they're in the Capitol, they're almost in a place of reverence. And I don't think that we should revere what those guys stood for. I think the right side won the war," Rooney said.

"But when you put a statute like that in a Capitol or in a town square, then it's almost like you're idolizing that person or that cause or that flag - and that's wrong, I think," he said.

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