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House Democrats Include Removal of Confederate Statues from U.S. Capitol in Funding Bill

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2020 (Erin Scott/Reuters)

House Democrats released a draft of a federal funding bill that includes a provision ordering the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol Monday, laying the groundwork for a potential fight over the issue later this year.

The provision in the fiscal year 2021 legislative branch funding bill orders the removal of statues and busts of those who served the Confederacy or have “unambiguous records of racial intolerance.” 

A summary of the bill specifically mentions the removal of statues of Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke, as well as the bust of Roger B. Taney. The men served as North Carolina governor, vice president, Arkansas senator, and chief justice of the Supreme Court respectively. 

Aycock was a segregationist, Calhoun argued in favor of slavery, Clark supported white supremacy, and Taney wrote the opinion in the Dred Scott case, a ruling that blacks “were not intended to be” American citizens under the Constitution.

The provision also calls for the removal of all Confederate statues and busts that pay tribute to individuals who voluntarily served in the Confederate military or the military of a state while it was rebelling against the U.S., and anyone who served as a Confederate government official.

The House Appropriations Committee’s bill provides more than $4 billion to fund the legislative branch in the fiscal year beginning in October. Congress must send its appropriations bills to the president’s desk by late September each year, but lawmakers are regularly forced to pass a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government running at current spending levels in lieu of reaching an agreement on the bill. The bill in its current form is unlikely to become law but could act as a template for continuing resolutions, which may or may not include the statue-removal provision.

Congress and states and municipalities nationwide have made efforts in recent weeks to remove Confederate tributes as protests and riots have sparked a larger conversation about race and history in the U.S. 

Last month, House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.,) removed the portraits of former House speakers who served the Confederacy and the Republican-controlled Senate included a provision in a defense bill that would rename military assets that are named after Confederates. 

President Trump threatened to veto the defense bill, and last month defended monuments that “represent our History & Heritage, both… the good and the bad” in a tweet.

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