The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to remove statues and busts of Confederate leaders, white supremacists and supporters of slavery from the Capitol. Only Republicans voted against the measure, which passed 285 to 120.
Even though opposition to the bill came from within their own party, Republicans took it as an opportunity to attack Democrats in speeches that conveniently skipped over decades of American political history and bashed efforts to educate students about racism.
“I applaud the Democrats for standing up, removing Democrat statues from Democrat-controlled majorities sent to a Democrat-majority House who accepted them,” Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who supported the bill, said during a House floor speech that also noted President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
Moments before his speech, McCarthy said in a tweet that “the Dem Party has simply replaced the racism of the Klan with the racism of Critical Race Theory,” referring to the latest conservative bogeyman.
“Each of the statues in question represents a known racist who was a Democrat from the past,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who also supported the bill, said on the House floor. “The majority party is anxious to erase their discriminatory history from the Capitol with this action.”
It’s quite the gotcha, so long as you don’t note that the parties have changed considerably since the 1800s.
Removing statues is part of a larger push to take down monuments to racism and the Confederacy. Along with removing statues of Confederates, the bill would take down the bust of former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the racist and widely denounced Dred Scott decision, and replace it with the U.S.’s first Black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall. It would also remove down statues of John C. Calhoun, Charles Aycock and James P. Clarke, key defenders of slavery and white supremacy.
The Capitol hosts two sculptures from each state, which the state selects to honor renowned residents.
The House passed a bill to remove Confederate statues last year in a 305-113 vote, but it was not approved by the Senate. Opponents of the bill argued that removing the statues should be left to the states.
But as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) noted, that process takes time, whereas this bill would allow the Capitol to take down the statues while states finalize their replacements, and to remove the bust of Taney, which was not sent by a state.
“While that process is ongoing, these individuals are on a pedestal,” Lofgren said. “And we cannot forget our history, but we don’t have to put segregationists and pro-slavery historical figures on a pedestal. We don’t honor them, although we do remember them.”
The idea of removing the statues at all was objectionable to some. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) said ahead of the vote that he would oppose the bill, which he said was “animated by the Critical Race Theory concepts of structural racism, microaggressions, and a United States based solely on white supremacy.”
I will vote against the continued attacks on American history.My full statement below: pic.twitter.com/uPgmWr2ugD
— Matt Rosendale (@RepRosendale) June 29, 2021
Democrats dismissed McCarthy’s and other Republicans’ efforts to use the statue bill to attack their party. Instead, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) called on the GOP to support protecting voting rights.
You would really be owning us if you supported the Voting Rights Act to really stick it those Dems… https://t.co/SRIvO6INqR
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) June 29, 2021
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said on the House floor that Democrats, particularly people of color, “are extremely aware of our history of racism in the Democratic Party.”
“Part of our history of Americans is that we criticize our country,” Bass said. “We don’t just honor the nice stories of our history, but we honor and embrace all of our history and we fight for a more perfect union.”
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