House Votes to Remove Capitol’s Confederate Statues

July 22, 2020 Updated: July 23, 2020

The Democrat-led House voted on Wednesday to require the removal of all confederate statues from the halls of the Capitol building.

The bipartisan vote of 305-113 saw 72 Republican and one Libertarian representatives joining Democrats to pass the bill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) legislation H.R. 7573, is co-sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Texas), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Glenn Thompson (D-Miss.).

Their bill mandates that states remove and replace any statues honoring members of the Confederacy in the Capitol National Statuary Hall Collection by removing, “all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in the United States Capitol.” And, “To direct the Architect of the Capitol to replace the bust of Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the United States Capitol with a bust of Thurgood Marshall.”

Taney wrote the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, which asserted that slaves were not citizens and did not have the right to sue.

The bill will require the Senate’s approval to take effect. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ala.) told reporters last month that he doesn’t agree with the effort.

“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,” McConnell said at the time.

There are 11 statues of Confederate figures displayed in various quarters of the Capitol.

National Statuary Hall includes two statues that each of the 50 states contributes to, of people that reflect their history, ranging from Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen from Vermont to Helen Keller from Alabama. The bill calls for the removal of statues of John C. Calhoun, Charles B. Aycock, and John C. Clarke, whom it identifies as defenders of slavery and white supremacy.

“We introduce this bill not only to make a statement but to make a reality of whom we honor in the Congress of the United States, in this temple of liberty,” said Hoyer at a press briefing on Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation, and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty,” he continued.

“Those statues that we will remove, those remembrances that we will remove ought to, as I said, be relegated a place of history of the dark stains of America, not the high convictions of America,” he later said in concluding remarks.

Rep. Lee, who has been working on the issue since 2017, said on Wednesday that the “painful symbols of bigotry and racism” 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,” he added.

Rep. Bass told reporters, “the Capitol can never really be for the people with reminders of a painful history that sought to continue the enslavement and our control of the African American population.”

“While statues do reflect an aspect of our history, statues are not just historical markers but are tributes, a way to honor an individual, and these individuals do not deserve to be honored,” Bass added.