Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri on Thursday blocked Democrats from passing legislation to remove all the statues of Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and fellow Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey sought to have the bill to remove the statues pass by unanimous consent. Under that rule, no vote is required, but any single senator can block the motion, as Blunt did in this case.
There are 11 statues of Confederate figures in the Capitol. Each state selects two figures to memorialize.
Blunt said he wanted to hear from the states involved and hold hearings as part of the Rules Committee, which he chairs.
“I’d like to … get the opinion of people who are taking similar statues out of the building. I’d also like to find out what other states have in mind as their part of this agreement,” he said.
“Each of these states would have the right to remove these statutes and some are. This is an agreement with the states. It goes back to 1864,” Blunt added, according to The Kansas City Star.
Blunt noted that since Congress passed a law in 2000 that allowed states to replace statues as they please if governors and state legislatures to approve the switch. Several states that were part of the Confederacy have replaced statutes of Confederate leaders with those of civil rights icons.
Booker said having statues of Confederate figures in the Capitol is a “painful, insulting, difficult injury.”
“The continued presence of these statues in the halls is an affront to African-Americans and the ideals of our nation,” he said.
Schumer said removing the statues would address the “poison of racism.”
“Candidly, I don’t think it would be too imposing to ask our states not to send statues of people who actively fought against this country. You know, there is a reason that Connecticut doesn’t send a statue of Benedict Arnold,” Schumer said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there is no need to change a process that is working.
“You know, there were eight presidents who owned slaves. Washington did. Jefferson did. Madison did. Monroe did. Look, as far as the statues are concerned, every state gets two. Any state can trade out, as Sen. Blunt pointed out, if they choose to. And some actually are choosing to,” he said.
On a related issue, Blunt said that because the decision rests solely in the hands of the federal government, he would move forward with renaming military installations named for Confederate leaders.
“I expressed my belief that it would be absolutely appropriate, in my view, to review the names of the forts… that are named after Confederate military leaders and change those names. And we can do that all on our own,” Blunt said.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has said he opposes the effort to rename military bases.
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