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House Democrats are looking to add a provision requiring the United States Capitol to remove busts of controversial historical figures, including a handful of known supporters of the Confederacy, from the building to a spending bill designed to fund the legislative branch.
The Hill reports that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a team of Democratic leaders unveiled the measure Monday and will bring the bill, which otherwise authorizes Congress to spend money on infrastructure, staffing, and other necessary items of upkeep, to a vote on Friday.
Democrats are specifically interested in removing a bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which determined that “all people of African descent, free or enslaved, were not United States citizens and therefore had no right to sue in federal court,” per History.com.
Although Taney has other accomplishments to his name, the Dred Scott decision was instrumental in inspiring abolitionists — and particularly abolitionist legislators — to press for an end to slavery in the United States.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is leading the charge to have Taney booted from the Capitol building.
“I think in this moment more people are beginning to recognize the nature of racism and how these people fought to continue enslaving people,” the head of the Congressional Black Caucus said last week.
Pelosi also ordered portraits of four previous House Speakers who also served in the Confederacy or Confederate army removed from the Capitol building late last month, per The Hill.
The new measure would target statues and other permanent fixtures in the Capitol.
“The bill released Monday would order the Architect of the Capitol to remove all statues of people who served in the Confederate states’ government or in its armed forces during the Civil War and place them into storage,” The Hill says. “It also specifically orders the removal of the Taney bust and the statues of Charles Aycock, who served as North Carolina governor in the early 20th century; John Calhoun, the former vice president and member of Congress who was a proponent of slavery; and James Paul Clarke, a former senator and governor of Arkansas who advocated for white supremacy.”
A separate bill, authored by Democratic majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) would replace Taney’s bust with one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve in that role.
A statue of long-time Democrat leader, Robert Byrd, who served as a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan and as the “Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops” of his local branch of the notorious hate group (and who, despite distancing himself from the Klan in later years, used racial slurs in public interviews as late as 2001), is not mentioned among the targets.