Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday characterized calls by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others to remove all statues of those figures having ties to the Confederacy a “bridge too far.”
However, the Kentucky Republican said he was open to the military choosing to rename posts that have been named for former Confederate States Army officers.
Last week, Pelosi sent a letter to the leadership of the Joint Committee on the Library “requesting the removal of statues representing Confederate soldiers and officials from display in the U.S. Capitol,” according to a news release from the speaker’s office.
“Among these 11 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,” the letter said.
Pelosi made a similar push in 2017, calling on then-House Speaker Paul Ryan to support legislation directing the removal of the statues.
McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that the states themselves decide what two statues they would like to have on display in the Capitol, and they are free to change them at any time.
“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” he said.
McConnell added that some states have decided to remove their statues of those with ties to the Confederacy.
“In 2019, Arkansas replaced two figures from the Civil War with statues of music legend Johnny Cash and civil rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates, though at the time Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said the reason for the swap was to have more modern representation of the state,” according to The Washington Post.
The Hill reported the states that have former Confederates on display in the Capitol include Virginia, with Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The statues of Confederate government leaders Davis and Stephens came from Mississippi and Georgia, respectively,
The rest of the 11 are lesser known figures from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Regarding changing names for military posts named for Confederate States Army officers — like Forts Lee, A.P. Hill, Bragg, Benning and Hood — McConnell said, “If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m personally OK with that — and I am a descendant of a Confederate veteran myself.”
“With regard to military bases, whatever is ultimately decided, I don’t have a problem with,” he added.
Task & Purpose reported in 2017 these posts came into being during the military buildups of World War I and II.
“And the Army — with input from local communities, depending upon location — named each post,” according to the news outlet. “Installations in the South tended to be named after local rebel heroes.”
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