House passes bill to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol

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WASHINGTON — The House voted Tuesday on legislation to remove Confederate statues from public display in the Capitol as well as a bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that said Black people couldn’t be citizens.

It passed the House 285 to 120, with 67 GOP lawmakers voting in favor of the bill along with all Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate and would need 60 votes to advance the bill.

The measure passed the House in the last Congress but stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. Last year, 72 Republicans voted with Democrats to take the statues down.

When the measure was reintroduced in the House earlier this year, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., cited the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in which some supporters of former President Donald Trump paraded Confederate flags and other symbols of hate, as a reason to do away with the statues.

“On January 6th, we experienced the divisiveness of Confederate battle flags being flown inside the U.S. Capitol,” Clyburn said in a statement. “Yet there are still vestiges that remain in this sacred building that glorify people and a movement that embraced that flag and sought to divide and destroy our great country. This legislation will remove these commemorations from places of honor and demonstrate that as Americans we do not celebrate those who seek to divide us.”

Under the measure, Taney’s bust would be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice. It would also remove statues of those who served in the Confederacy — one of its presidents, Jefferson Davis, is prominently displayed in Statuary Hall — as well as those of Vice President John C. Calhoun, North Carolina Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock, and Arkansas Sen. James Paul Clarke, all of whom defended slavery, segregation and white supremacy.

The architect of the Capitol will be asked to identify any other statues of those who served in the Confederacy. Removed statues would be returned to states that sent them to the Capitol.

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Democrats have tried to remove the memorials to Confederate leaders for years, and their efforts intensified last year as the country wrestled with police brutality and racial intolerance in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year. Pelosi announced last year, in June, that she ordered the removal of portraits of four House speakers who served in the Confederacy.

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