House votes to sweep out Capitol statues deemed offensive

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The House voted to remove the bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and several other statues associated with the Confederacy or racism.

Democrats have been determined to rid the building of statues memorializing long-dead dignitaries who held racist viewpoints, a goal realized in Tuesday's vote of 285-120. Sixty-seven Republicans voted with all Democrats present, but many GOP members said the removal process should be left to the states, which are each allowed to place two statues in the Capitol.

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While the House has voted in favor of removing the statues in the past, the effort stalled under the GOP-led Senate, which is now in Democratic hands. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has not indicated when or if he’ll bring up the bill, but House Democrats are confident.

"I have no reason to believe Leader Schumer won’t bring this bill to the floor," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat.

The bill would replace Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black person to serve on the high court.

The proposal also calls to remove statues of Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke, who all espoused white supremacy.

In some cases, states have already begun replacing the statues, but the effort takes years.

Instead, Republicans argued Tuesday that Congress should reform the lengthy process for states to replace the two statues they dedicate to stand in the Capitol. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, questioned the bill's timing and pointed to "decades of inaction" by Democratic House majorities to remove the statues.

Foxx said the congressional panel overseeing the statues moves too slowly, noting a request by North Carolina officials to replace the Aycock statue with the late Rev. Billy Graham "has been awaiting action" for months, suggesting more substantial reforms are in order.

But Democrats said it is more important to relocate the statues immediately where they can no longer be viewed by the public who visit the Capitol.

"While that process is ongoing, these individuals are on a pedestal," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat. "And we cannot forget our history, but we do not have to put segregationists and pro-slavery historical figures on a pedestal. We don’t have to honor them, while we do have to remember them."

Aycock was a prominent Democrat and North Carolina governor from 1901-1905. He promoted white supremacy and keeping black Americans suppressed and disenfranchised.

Clarke, another Democrat, was the former governor of Arkansas and a senator from 1903-1916. He was also a white supremacist.

Arkansas officials have already taken steps to replace the Clarke statue in the Capitol and another statue of Uriah Milton Rose. The figures will be replaced with statues of musician Johnny Cash and Daisy Lee Gatson Bates, a member of the "Little Rock Nine," a group of black students who attended a newly integrated school in the 1950s.

Calhoun’s likeness can be spotted in several locations in the Capitol. He’s memorialized in a marble bust and a portrait in the Senate, as well as a statue designed by South Carolina in the lower level of the Capitol.

Calhoun, who served as vice president and a senator, openly embraced white supremacy and slavery.

A bust of Taney is located in the Senate, inside the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Taney authored the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision declaring black people were not citizens.

Republicans accused Democrats of trying to rid the building of key historical figures who embraced racist views and also happened to be Democrats.

Hoyer rejected the charge in a press conference with reporters on Tuesday.

"This is not about forgetting history or blurring history, but it’s saying we will not honor in the halls of Congress, either pictures, statues, or busts that give rise to a sense that they are being honored when they dishonored democracy and human rights," he said.

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House Democrats included a provision to remove the statues in the 2022 Legislative Branch spending bill, a must-pass measure that has to be compromised with the Senate.

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Tags: News, Congress, confederate statues, Race and Diversity

Original Author: Susan Ferrechio

Original Location: House votes to sweep out Capitol statues deemed offensive

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