Posted on June 30, 2021

House Votes to Remove Statues of Confederate Leaders from U.S. Capitol

John Wagner and Eugene Scott, Washington Post, June 29, 2021

The House on Tuesday passed legislation to remove statues of Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol and replace the bust of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. chief justice who wrote the 1857 Supreme Court decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens.

The vote was 285 to 120, with 67 Republicans joining Democrats in backing the measure. A similar bill passed the House last year on a 305-to-113 vote but did not advance in the Senate, then controlled by Republicans.

Upon reintroducing the bill this year, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) pointed to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, during which some supporters of then-President Donald Trump carried Confederate flags.


The legislation directs the Architect of the Capitol “to remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America.” It specifically mentioned three men who backed slavery — Charles B. Aycock, John C. Calhoun and James P. Clarke.

The legislation would replace the bust of Taney, which sits outside the old Supreme Court chamber on the Capitol’s first floor, with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.

The legislation faces challenges in the evenly divided Senate, where it would have to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, tweeted that replacing Confederate statues with monuments honoring Americans who celebrated diversity like Marshall should be a bipartisan effort.

“Hate has no place in our society, let alone in the halls of Congress,” she tweeted. {snip}

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) used the floor debate to suggest the Democratic Party is racist.


“All the statues being removed by this bill are of Democrats,” McCarthy said. He added: “Democrats are desperate to pretend their party has progressed from their days of supporting slavery, pushing Jim Crow laws, and supporting the KKK. But today, the Democrat Party has simply replaced the racism of the past with the racism of critical race theory.”


McCarthy, who voted for the bill, also singled out President Biden, who delivered a eulogy for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) in 2010. Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s who later renounced his membership in the hate group.


Other Republicans spoke not in opposition to the bill but rather on the legislative process.

“My opposition to this bill isn’t because of the goal that we’re trying to achieve, but it’s the way the majority continues to skirt procedure,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). {snip}


In 1857, Taney wrote the majority decision in the case of Dred Scott, a Black man born into slavery who used the courts to demand his freedom. Taney’s ruling, which defended slavery and declared that Black people could never become U.S. citizens, came to be viewed as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.