WASHINGTON — Georgia’s statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who served as vice president of the Confederacy, is one step closer to being forced out of the U.S. Capitol.
The House voted Tuesday to remove statues that honor Confederate leaders, as well as a bust of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. Taney has been vilified over the years for authoring the 1857 Dred Scott decision that said Black people in America did not enjoy the rights of citizenship.
The 285-120 vote was bipartisan, with about one-third of Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the bill, H.R. 3005.
Georgia’s delegation split along party lines. All six Democrats were in favor; six of eight Republicans voted “no.” The remaining two, U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Buddy Carter, did not vote.
The bill’s fate is uncertain in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would need to vote with the 50-member Democratic caucus in order to avoid a filibuster.
Democrats in the House said the measure is needed to provide swift action to remove symbols currently on display in the Capitol complex such as the Stephens statue, which has a prominent position in Statuary Hall.
“My ancestors built this building,” said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California. “Imagine how they would feel knowing that more than 100 years after slavery was abolished in this country, we still pay homage to the very people that betrayed this country in order to keep my ancestors enslaved, and imagine how I feel and other African Americans and people of color feel walking through Statuary Hall and knowing that there are monuments to people who supported, embraced and fought for the breakup of our country.”
Although a majority of Republicans supported the measure, some said the bill was the wrong way to go about switching out statues that are objectionable according to current public perceptions.
They noted that many states, including Georgia, had already begun conversations about submitting new statues.
A bipartisan bill is pending in the General Assembly that would switch out the Stephens statue with one celebrating U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Lewis, a celebrated civil rights leader who later entered politics, died of cancer last year.
North Carolina has already made the decision to take down its statue of former Gov. Charles Aycock, a white supremacist, and replace it with one depicting televangelist Billy Graham.
Republicans who opposed H.R. 3005 also criticized the Joint Committee of the Library for moving slowly on requests already made by states such as North Carolina to make changes.
Georgia U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk led the opposition to the measure during Tuesday’s debate. He said he agreed there were statues in the building of people he did not believe should be honored, although he didn’t mention any names. Democrats were going about it the wrong way, the Cassville Republican said.
“I have fought for a long time to remove those, but I am in opposition to the process of which we’re trying to impose to do this,” Loudermilk said.
HOW THEY VOTED
On H.R. 3005, removing Taney bust and symbols of Confederacy from the Capitol
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens
U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton
Did not vote
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro
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