WASHINGTON – The House has approved a bill to remove statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol, as a reckoning over racial injustice continues following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.
The House vote also would remove a bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared African Americans couldn't be citizens.
The bill directs the Architect of the Capitol to identify and eventually remove from Statuary Hall at least 10 statues honoring Confederate officials, including Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate Army, and Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president. Three statues honoring white supremacists — including former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina — would be immediately removed.
“Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said at a Capitol news conference ahead of the House vote.
The House approved the bill 305-113, sending it to the Republican-controlled Senate, where prospects are uncertain. Seventy-two Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, joined with 232 Democrats to support the bill.
Hoyer, a Democrat, co-sponsored the measure and noted with irony that Taney was born in the southern Maryland district Hoyer represents. Hoyer said it was appropriate that the bill would replace Taney’s bust with another Maryland native, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the high court’s first Black justice.
The House vote comes as communities nationwide reexamine the people they're memorializing with statues. Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month ordered that the portraits of four speakers who served the Confederacy be removed from the ornate hall just outside the House chamber.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said the statues honoring Lee and other Confederate leaders are “deliberate attempts to rewrite history and dehumanize African Americans.″