House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls for removal of Confederate statues from US Capitol

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is renewing a call to remove Confederate statues from display in the US Capitol — a move that comes amid a national outcry over police misconduct and racial injustice and as President Donald Trump opposes efforts to remove Confederate commanders’ names from military bases.

Pelosi sent a letter on Wednesday asking for the removal of 11 statues depicting Confederate soldiers and officials that are displayed as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol. Statuary Hall is a chamber near the House floor filled with statues of American historical figures. Pelosi sent the letter to the leadership of the Joint Committee on the Library, a congressional joint committee that has oversight of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

“Let us lead by example. To this end, I request the Joint Committee on the Library direct the Architect of the Capitol to immediately take steps to remove these 11 statues from display in the United States Capitol,” the California Democrat wrote in the letter.

The request from the House speaker comes as the United States has been gripped by nationwide protests and unrest over the killing of George Floyd in police custody, an event that has sparked calls for police reform and accountability and launched a push for reform in Congress.

In contrast, Trump said Wednesday that he opposes any effort by the US military to rename the nearly one dozen major bases and installations that bear the names of Confederate military commanders.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper are said to be open to holding a “bipartisan conversation” about renaming the major bases and installations that bear the names of Confederate commanders, according to an Army official.

But Trump tweeted on Wednesday: “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a … history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

The Joint Committee on the Library, which is evenly composed of Republican and Democratic lawmakers and chaired by GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, would need to vote on a simple majority vote to remove the statues from display in the Capitol.

When asked on Wednesday about the idea of removing Confederate statues from the US Capitol building, Blunt reminded reporters that it is up to the states to determine which people from their respective histories are honored in the Statuary Hall collection.

This is not the first time that Pelosi has called for removing Confederate statues in the Capitol. Intense debate over the statues broke out in 2017 after a man drove a car into a crowd that was protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was demonstrating with dozens of others against the “Unite the Right” rally.

Not long after the attack in Charlottesville, Pelosi called on then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, to join with Democrats in backing legislation to take down the statues.

Pelosi noted in her letter Wednesday that among the 11 statues in the Capitol “are Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America, respectively, both of whom were charged with treason against the United States.”

House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, responded to the letter on Wednesday saying she supports removing Confederate statues and calling on the Architect of the Capitol to take the steps to remove them.

Pelosi wrote in the letter, “While I believe it is imperative that we never forget our history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country.”

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