Dems unveil bill to ban Confederate monuments on federal property
A pair of House Democrats unveiled legislation on Thursday that would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to display Confederate symbols on federal property.
That would include locations such as the Capitol, military bases, highways, parks and streets maintained by the federal government.
Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.) and Dwight Evans (Pa.) are introducing the bill amid renewed furor over whether Confederate statues in the Capitol and localities across the nation should be taken down.
“We recognize these symbols for what they are and for the abhorrence they represent, still today,” Espaillat said in a statement. “We defeated the Confederacy once, and we must be willing to defeat it once again, now and forever, as the tribute to the legacy we leave behind for the next generation.”
Both lawmakers noted in the statement announcing their legislation that there are more than 100 public schools and military bases named after Confederate leaders, in addition to the hundreds of monuments and statues. Most of those Confederate memorials are located in southern states.
Evans, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the Confederate monuments symbolize “a constant reminder of what our ancestors endured.”
“If we want our nation to heal and move forward, we must remove these abhorrent symbols at once,” Evans said.
Black Caucus members have renewed calls in recent days to remove the Confederate statues in the Capitol. Many had previously urged for the statues’ removal in 2015 after the racially motivated shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
However, only states have the power to remove and replace statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection under the current rules.
“These are decisions for those states to make,” Doug Andres, spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said Thursday.
But a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested that lawmakers could change the rules so that Congress has more power to remove statues or agree to move the statues out of public view.
Efforts to remove Confederate monuments multiplied in communities nationwide after the violence stemming from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. The white supremacists had descended upon Charlottesville to protest the city council’s decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Since then, the city of Baltimore removed four Confederate memorials overnight and protesters pulled down a statue in Durham, N.C.
Earlier Thursday, President Trump defended Confederate monuments in a series of tweets.
“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. “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
He added that “the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”