House Democrats push bills to remove Confederate statues from Capitol

House Democrats are pushing forward with their efforts to remove artwork and monuments honoring Confederate figures from the Capitol.

Nearly one month after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would allow for Congress to remove the pieces, two bills have been proposed that appear headed toward floor votes.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) plans to bring a bill he originally introduced in March to the floor, The Hill reports.

The bill directs the Capitol Architect to replace a bust of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney with one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Taney is best remembered for authoring the Dred Scott decision in 1857, stating that black people did not have rights as citizens. Marshall was the first African American to serve on that bench.

Scott, who was a slave, sued for his freedom in a lawsuit that lasted a decade.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and House Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) have co-sponsored the legislation.

Speaking to reporters last Wednesday, Hoyer denounced the 1857 ruling as “a terrible, terrible decision inconsistent with what America stands for, and what America said it stood for, and its Declaration of Independence.”

The bust currently sits at the entrance of the old Supreme Court chamber at the Capitol.

Aside from Hoyer’s legislation, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) introduced a bill that would grant Congress the authority to unilaterally remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.

Those statues would either be returned to the states from which they came or donated to the Smithsonian.

Lee expressed confidence to The Hill that her bill would also hit the House floor, citing conversations with House leadership, but said that a time had not yet been scheduled.

“Every time I go through the hall with these statutes, you know, I get angry. But it forces me to want to do something about it, because these people wanted to continue with enslavement of my ancestors. They’re hateful symbols and they have no place in our society,” Lee said.

Pelosi has argued that she called for legislation because she did not believe that she had the power to remove the artwork herself.

“Believe me, if I had more authority we’d have fewer of those statues around,” she said while briefing reporters in June, adding that a speaker could only move statues within the Capitol.

“I could move things around, I couldn’t actually take them out, that requires something else,” she continued.

Asked to comment on the matter last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to take a firm position, instead advising that the issue be left to the states.

“Every state is allowed two statues. They can trade them out at any time. I think that’s the appropriate way to deal with the statue issue, the states make that decision,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters in June.

The moves by House Democrats come as monuments of historic figures across the country and cities abroad have been targeted during the civil unrest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.

Officials across the country have promised to re-evaluate their monuments, in some cases pledging to take them down outright. Despite this, some protesters have taken it upon themselves to either severely vandalize or tear down statues they consider controversial.

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