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Only one Republican from Missouri joined Democrats Tuesday in supporting the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
And while Kansas prides itself on its abolitionist roots, all three of the state’s GOP House members opposed the measure that will remove statuary honoring secessionists and other champions of slavery from the building.
Each state has the power to choose two historical figures to commemorate with statues at the U.S. Capitol.
During the Jim Crow era, when historical revisionism about the Civil War was at its peak, many southern states sent statues of Confederate leaders to the Capitol. A number have been removed in recent years at the states’ discretion, but 10 remain on display.
The U.S. House voted 285 to 120 Tuesday to remove the last remaining Confederate statuary from the Capitol, including Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, the president of the Confederacy.
Democrats uniformly voted for the measure. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, said removing the statues will send an important message about racial healing and national unity, which is even more important in the wake of January’s attack on the Capitol in which several rioters brandished Confederate symbols.
“This is the Capitol of the United States and it has always seemed to me an act of governmental perversion to put the statues of people in the Capitol who tried… to take down the government of the United States,” said Cleaver, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
St. Louis area Rep. Ann Wagner was the only Republican from Missouri to join Cleaver and other Democrats from the region in supporting the resolution. She was one of 67 Republicans in the House to back it, roughly a third of the party’s conference.
Rep. Billy Long, a Springfield area Republican, did note vote. The other Republicans in the delegation voted against the legislation, including Rep. Sam Graves, who represents the Kansas City Northland, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a candidate for U.S. Senate whose district includes Cass County.
Hartzler said in a statement late Tuesday that the issue was better left to states to handle.
“I believe the states should change the statue themselves and I believe they will,” Hartzler said. “That is the proper way to go about making these changes and states already have and do change their statues.”
Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican who represents southeast Missouri, criticized the legislation as a symbolic gesture disconnected from ordinary people’s lives. But he did not specifically refer to the Confederacy or slavery in his comment.
“Congress focusing on which statues to remove from the Capitol over how to get working class families back to work is another example of their skewed priorities. They focus on themselves rather than the Country,” Smith said on Twitter shortly before the vote.
Smith, who is weighing a run for Senate, has opposed other measures aimed at removing federal commemorations of Confederates.
Congress voted last year to remove the names of Confederate generals from 10 military bases as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that funds the military.
Then-President Donald Trump vetoed the legislation, but it resulted in the sole veto override of his presidency as lawmakers of both parties joined in passing it over Trump’s objections. Smith and Long both voted to uphold Trump’s veto.
Opposition to removal of the statues by a majority of Republicans is ironic given the GOP’s history as the “Party of Lincoln,” which controlled Congress during the Civil War and oversaw the Union’s victory over the Confederacy.
The opposition of the Kansas members is particularly striking given Kansas’ abolitionist history. State leaders often express pride in Kansas’ founding as a free state. Lawrence, the center of abolitionism in the state, was infamously set ablaze by pro-Confederate guerrilla forces from Missouri in 1863 in an attack that claimed the lives of 164 civilians.
Freshman Republican Reps. Jake LaTurner and Tracey Mann both voted to preserve the Confederate statues. It was their first time voting on the issue. Republican Rep. Ron Estes, who previously voted to uphold Trump’s veto on the NDAA, joined them.
None of the three Kansas Republicans immediately responded for requests for comment. Mann was the sole member of the delegation to oppose a bill intended combat hate crimes earlier this year.
Rep. Sharice Davids, the lone Democrat in the Kansas delegation, supported the statues’ removal.
The House passed a similar legislation last year following protests against institutional racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. But this year’s resolution stands a better chance of advancing in the Senate with Democrats in control..
The resolution will also remove sculptures commemorating a number of figures closely associated with slavery, including Roger Brooke Taney, the 19th Century chief justice of the Supreme Court, who delivered the infamous Dred Scott decision that Black Americans could not be considered citizens.
The bust of Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol will be swapped for one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice on the Supreme Court.
The vote comes just two weeks after both parties voted overwhelmingly to establish Juneteenth as a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery.
No statues from Kansas or Missouri will be affected by the legislation.
Kansas’ two statues in the Capitol honor President Dwight Eisenhower, who grew up in Abilene, and John James Ingalls, who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate during late 19th Century. Ingalls’ statue is slated to be replaced by one of Amelia Earhart statue—though the process has been slow-moving.
Missouri is represented by two 19th Century senators, Thomas Hart Benton and Francis Preston Blair Jr., who served as a major general for the Union during the Civil War. Benton’s statue will be replaced in the near future by one of President Harry Truman, who grew up in Independence.