The House voted 285 to 120 on Tuesday to remove statues of Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol and to replace the bust of the author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision with one of the first Black Supreme Court justices, Thurgood Marshall. Of the 211 Republicans, 120—well over half—decided to perpetuate the Civil War and stick with the losing, racist side. Another 24 didn’t bother to vote.
Debate on the issue was passionate. “My ancestors built this building,” Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, said in her remarks ahead of the vote. “Imagine how they would feel, knowing that more than 100 years after slavery was abolished in this country, we still paid homage to the very people that betrayed this country in order to keep my ancestors enslaved.”
“The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her remarks. “The statues that we display should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men, or people who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to those ideals.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty, an Ohio Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, tweeted her statement calling for a bipartisan vote. “Let’s join together as Democrats and Republicans to send a stronger message that the people’s House should reflect the very best of America.”
“It’s time to stop glorifying white supremacists in black robes and Confederate traitors who defected from the union and took up arms against the United States,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said. “It’s one thing to remember the nation’s Confederate traitors, it’s another thing to glorify them.”
There was also some deep stupidity on display, exemplified by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who just couldn’t resist the opportunity to tout the Republican outrage de jour and insist that it’s the Democrats who are racist because they’re pointing out racism. “All the statues being removed by this bill are of Democrats,” McCarthy said. “Democrats are desperate to pretend their party has progressed from their days of supporting slavery, pushing Jim Crow laws, and supporting the KKK,” he continued. “But today, the Democrat Party has simply replaced the racism of the past with the racism of critical race theory.”
In addition to specifying that the bust of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney be removed from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol, the bill directs the architect of the Capitol to identify and remove all of the statues and busts that depict members of the Confederacy within 45 days of the resolution’s enactment. It specifies just three other individuals, defenders of slavery and segregation: Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun and James Paul Clarke.
This presents yet another test for Mitch McConnell’s Senate Republicans, and for Democrats still defending the Jim Crow filibuster in that body. The House passed a version of this same legislation last year, but McConnell as then-majority leader refused to bring it to the floor for a vote, saying it was unnecessary and the states should choose whether or not to have the statues representing them in the U.S. Capitol removed. He—and his whole conference—can’t avoid this vote now, but whether there are 10 Senate Republicans willing to reject white supremacy and break a filibuster is unclear.