Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol

A pair of senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced legislation on Thursday that would remove the remaining Confederate statues from the Capitol following nationwide protests against police brutality and racial profiling.

The bill from Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Overnight Defense: Nearly 500 former national security officials formally back Biden | 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Calif.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonUnderwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel House panel pans ICE detention medical care, oversight Senate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week MORE (D-Miss.) came a day after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Calif.) called for removing Confederate statues from the Capitol complex.

There are 11 statues of people who served in the Confederacy, either as officials or soldiers, displayed in the Capitol complex. Some, such as Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States, are located just steps from the House chamber.

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“Americans in all 50 states and millions of people around the world are marching to protest racism and police violence directed at people of color, and yet across the country, Confederate statues and monuments still pay tribute to white supremacy and slavery in public spaces,” Lee said in a statement. “It is time to tell the truth about what these statues are: hateful symbols that have no place in our society and certainly should not be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol.”

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing MORE (D-N.J.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate with more than a dozen co-sponsors, calling the removal of the statues "long overdue."

"Those who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war to preserve the institution of slavery are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space," he said in a statement.

The statues are all part of the National Statuary Hall collection, which are displayed all over the Capitol complex. Each of the 50 states contributes two statues to the collection, which they can replace if their legislatures and governors approve the change.

The legislation from Democrats would remove all of the Confederate statues in the collection within 120 days. The statues could either be reclaimed by the states or given to the Smithsonian.

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Lee previously introduced the bill in 2017 following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

But the efforts by Lee and other Congressional Black Caucus members at the time ultimately did not lead to removal of the Capitol's Confederate statues while Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress.

Thompson also pushed for removing the display of his state's flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag, in the Capitol complex in 2015 after the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C.

GOP leaders ultimately removed a display of state flags in a tunnel connecting House office buildings to the Capitol and replaced them with commemorative coins.

Pelosi on Wednesday asked Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSCOTUS confirmation in the last month of a close election? Ugly Senate to push funding bill vote up against shutdown deadline Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day MORE (R-Mo.) and Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenBusiness groups start gaming out a Biden administration Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman and vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on the Library, which oversees the placement of statues, to remove the statues.

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Pelosi similarly called for removing the Confederate statues in 2017. And during her previous stint as Speaker, Pelosi moved a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate army commander, from a prominent place in Statuary Hall, steps from the House chamber, to a floor below in a room known as the Capitol Crypt.

"Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed," Pelosi wrote Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he thinks a decision on Confederate statues in the Capitol should be left up to states

"Every state is allowed two statues, they can trade them out at any time ... a number of states are trading them out now. But I think that's the appropriate way to deal with the statue issue. The states make that decision," McConnell told reporters.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE, meanwhile, has defended allowing Confederate statues and buildings named after Confederate officials to remain in place. Trump said Wednesday he "will not even consider" renaming Army bases that were named for Confederate leaders despite top Pentagon officials expressing openness to the idea.

"These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom," Trump tweeted.

Updated: 6:47 p.m.