WASHINGTON (AP) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Thursday for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol as the contentious debate over the appropriateness of such memorials moved to the halls of Congress.
Pelosi asked Speaker Paul Ryan to join Democrats in supporting legislation to remove the Confederate statues. The legislation can’t pass without support from Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress.
Pelosi said the statues in the Capitol should “embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation.”
Pelosi’s challenge comes as violence during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has stoked calls to remove Confederate statues elsewhere. About 10 statues in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall are of men who served as Confederate soldiers or politicians.
“The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible,” Pelosi said in a statement. “If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately.”
Each state is allowed to place two statues in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan, said the display of statues is a decision for the states to make.
The statues in Statuary Hall are required to be of someone deceased for at least 10 years and must be made of marble or bronze. An exception was made for the statue of Rosa Parks, which was moved to its current location in 2013, as well as for any replacement statues, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Among the statues present are of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Virginia; Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, Mississippi; and Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the Confederate vice president, Georgia.
Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, announced earlier that he would be sponsoring legislation to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol building.
“This is just one step,” Booker said. “We have much work to do.”
President Donald Trump is strongly criticizing efforts to remove memorials and tributes to the Civil War Confederacy.
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he tweeted Thursday. “Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish. …
“Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
On Twitter, reach Kevin Freking at https://twitter.com/APkfreking