Confederate statues remain in the US Capitol collection, despite opposition from Democrats

Robert E. Lee may have died, but other Confederate statues survived House Mayor Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to expel them from the United States Capitol collection.

Ms. Pelosi and her fellow Democrats wrote a clause in one of the House’s spending bills earlier this year that would set a 45-day deadline to expel all Confederate statues and Confederate busts from public areas on Capitol Hill.

But that demand was eliminated from the final bill on coronavirus spending that Congress passed on Monday.

The statues are part of the Statuary Hall collection, under which each state can place two statues of any figures that the state deems worthy of inclusion in the sacred halls of Congress.

Several states are now struggling with their choices, especially those with ties to the Confederacy, and the debate has become more intense in recent months with racial justice protests that have swept the country – in many cases leading to vigilant urban planning, as mobs topple statues.

In June, when the protests were at their most intense, Ms. Pelosi announced that she wanted 11 Confederate figures out of the Congress collection.

“They committed treason,” she said at the time.

She specifically named Jefferson Davis, the Confederation president who was in fact accused of treason, although the case was dismissed, and Alexander Stephens, the Confederation’s vice president.

Democrats first tried to get the Library of Congress Joint Committee, which oversees the statues, to act. But the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, rejected his attempt, saying it is up to each state to decide its two statues in the Statuary Hall collection.

Democrats made several other attempts in July.

They passed an independent bill in the House on a 305-113 bipartisan vote to remove the statues and busts, but never took action in the Senate.

And led by Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio and chairman of the subcommittee that oversees Congress’ own internal budget, they inserted text into the 2021 spending bill setting the 45-day deadline for extirpating the Confederates.

Ryan went further, however, and also called for the removal of others like John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina politician who died in 1850, more than a decade before the Civil War, and Charles Aycock, who was just one year old at the beginning of the war, but who, as governor of North Carolina in the early 20th century, oversaw segregation.

And Mr. Ryan asked for the removal of a bust of Roger B. Taney, a former Supreme Court president who authored the decision Dred Scott denying citizenship to black people and discovering that they could be legal property under the Constitution.

“The placement of statues on the Capitol in honor of men who tried to overthrow the United States government or who were white supremacists has been controversial for years and offensive to many of the visitors who come to Capitol each year. The committee believes that its removal is long overdue, ”Ryan and his colleagues said in the report.

His bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee and accumulated in the year-end spending negotiations against the Senate version, which lacked these provisions.

In this week’s final deal, Confederate language was abandoned.

“A similar provision was not included in the Senate Legislative Appropriations Bill, and was not included in the comprehensive package approved by Congress this week,” confirmed an aide.

Ryan’s office did not respond to an inquiry from The Washington Times on Wednesday.

No action by Congress means that decisions are still in the hands of the states.

Virginia has already acted, pulling its statue of Lee, the Confederacy’s top general, last weekend. A state panel recommended that civil rights era figure Barbara Johns be sent as Lee’s replacement to join another state statue – George Washington.

Mrs. Pelosi, during her first stint as a speaker, a decade ago, had the statue of Lee removed from its prominent location in the National Statuary Hall, the former chamber of the Chamber that is a centerpiece of Congress tours, and placed in a less-traveled location.

The speaker’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but after Lee’s removal, Ms. Pelosi said she still intends to expel the others.

“Congress will continue our work to free Capitol from tributes to hatred, as we strive to end the scourge of racism in our country,” she said in a statement applauding Lee’s removal. “There is no room to celebrate Confederacy’s prejudice. on Capitol Hill or any other place of honor in our country. ”

Congress took another hit at the Confederates’ celebration of annual defense policy, passing a directive to rename the military bases that bear Confederate names.

President Trump vetoed the bill on Wednesday, and the Capitol will try to annul it later this month.

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