Chief Justice Roger Taney
The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to remove all Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. Capitol, along with replacing the bust of former Chief Justice of the United States Roger Taney, author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared that people of African descent were not U.S. citizens.
The bill passed by a vote of 285-120. Democrats were unanimous in their support for the bill and were joined by 67 Republicans. A similar bill last year passed the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate. Backers are hoping for a different outcome now that President Joe Biden is in the White House and Democrats control the Senate.
“My ancestors built this building,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said in passionate remarks on the House floor 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 legislation, H.R.3005, would direct 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. Any removed statue that was provided to the Capitol by a state would be returned to the state, which could then elect to replace it with another honoree.
The Taney bust would be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice to serve on the nation’s highest court. The 2-foot-high marble bust of Taney is outside a room in the Capitol where the Supreme Court met from 1810 to 1860. It was in that room that Taney, the nation’s fifth chief justice, announced the Dred Scott decision, sometimes called the worst decision in the court’s history.
Three other statues honoring white supremacists — including former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina — would also be immediately removed under the legislation. Longer-term, the architect of the Capitol would be instructed to identify any other statues depicting those who served in the Confederate States of America for removal from public display. A Jefferson Davis statue would also be removed.
The removed statues will be returned to the states from where they came from. Each state contributes two statues for display at the Capitol.
Kevin McCarthy said he would vote for removal and said “all the statues being removed by this bill are statues of Democrats.”