In a House speech earlier Tuesday, Hoyer cited the Jan. 6 insurgency as a “watershed moment – to see such evils take over the halls of the United States Capitol.” But Hoyer said the African Americans who worked on Capitol Hill for decades knew only too well the “meaning of the taint of this sacred space.”
âWhen they walk into the former solemn chamber of the Supreme Court and gaze at the cold and mottled Roger Brooke Taney, they remember that at one point, our country’s highest courtâ¦ said that black lives didnât ‘didn’t matter,’ Hoyer said.
The legislation would also remove any other statue or bust of persons who served voluntarily in the Confederacy from public display in the United States Capitol. This would remove former Vice President John C. Calhoun, North Carolina Governor Charles B. Aycock, and Arkansas Senator John P. Clarke, all of whom promoted slavery and white supremacy. There are 12 Confederate statues in the Capitol Collection.
Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy announced his decision to vote for the bill earlier Tuesday, while stressing that “all statues removed by this bill are statues of Democrats.” This led Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) To ask if her fellow Republicans were aware of “the whole history of the civil rights movement” and the transformation of the two political parties.
The vote comes as the House grapples with extremism within its own ranks. This week, McCarthy is dealing with a far-right Republican who is said to have ties to white nationalists. Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) would participate in a fundraiser with Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and the organizer of the America First Political Action Conference. Gosar denied the information.
Similar Hoyer legislation was passed by the House last summer, with over 300 votes – 72 Republicans. The Republican-controlled Senate did not pass the legislation.
Hoyer reintroduced the legislation in May and said “it’s never too late to do the right thing.” While he has a better chance of making his way to the upper house this time around, he will likely meet a similar fate with the slim Democratic majority in the Senate.
Lawmakers again applauded the passage on Tuesday, an effort relaunched last summer as protesters demanded justice and action for the murder of George Floyd by police – further fueling discussions over the role of Confederate symbols in public spaces.
“I was proud to join my colleagues in voting for #RemoveHate du Capitole today” Hoyer tweeted after the vote. âToday’s vote was a vote to defend the principles of equality and justice on which our nation was founded. Hatred, racism and bigotry have no place here.
The placement of Confederate statues on Capitol Hill has been a tricky issue for Democratic lawmakers. In 1864, Congress invited states to send two statues for inclusion in the collection of the National Statuary Hall, and the legislature does not have the power to replace them.
Many states have voluntarily replaced the statues in question, such as Virginia’s decision to recall a statue of Robert E. Lee and replace it with civil rights leader Barbara Johns. North Carolina has also announced plans to replace the statue of Aycock, a prominent white supremacist state leader, with that of Reverend Billy Graham. If Hoyer’s bill passes the Senate, the architect of the Capitol would have the power to remove the statues from public view.
In a speech to the House on Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to another bill – the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – which is suspended in the Senate. She asked members how they could “end the scourge of racism” – noting that police reform legislation is a way forward – “when we allow the worst perpetrators of this racism to be praised in the hallways of Congress â.
Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.