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 Lee (D-Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) came a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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.
“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 Booker (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.
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 Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairman and vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on the Library, which oversees the placement of statues, to remove the statues.
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 McConnell (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 Trump, 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.
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