In a 285-120 vote, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to remove all Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. Capitol.
The bill, if passed in the Senate, directs the architect of the Capitol to identify and remove all statues and busts that depict members of the Confederacy from public display within 45 days of the resolution’s enactment. The statues would then be returned to the home states, with the option to replace them with another honoree, NPR reports.
In addition to statues that depict or glorify the Confederacy, the bill specifically mentions the removal of former Chief Justice of the United States Roger Taney, author of the landmark 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that declared no individual of African descent was, or could ever be a U.S. citizen. His statue is to be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice.
“The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ahead of the vote. “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.”
The removal of the Capitol statues is complicated, however, as Congress has no authority over much of it, writes the New York Times.
A law that originated during the Civil War, declares that each state may send two statues of deceased citizens who were “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services,” and whom the state considers “worthy of this national commemoration” to be featured in Statuary Hall or elsewhere in the Capitol.
Many of the statues sent by Southern states were erected in the early 20th century during a time in which the narrative of the “Lost Cause” was largely being propagated.
Some Republican lawmakers noted their support for the removal of statues but stated they would vote ‘no’ on the bill due to discontent over the legislative process.
In a statement, Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks denounced “cancel culture and historical revisionism,” before adding, “I support federalism and a state’s right to decide for itself who it should honor. As such, I will proudly vote ‘No’ on H.R. 3005. Alabama, not New Yorkers, Californians, or anyone else, should decide who we wish to honor in Alabama’s contribution to the National Statuary Collection.”