Calling them “monuments to men who advocated unkindness and cruelty to achieve such a plainly racist end,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for “immediately” removing 11 Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
The California Democrat said in a letter that “their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage,” to the congressional panel with jurisdiction over a display of statues at the Capitol. “They must be removed.”
The Capitol’s National Statuary Hall features statues donated by states ― two from each ― to honor people notable in a particular state’s history. The collection of 100 statues is overseen by the Architect of the Capitol.
Pelosi’s letter to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chair and vice chair of the joint committee, respectively, urges them to direct the Architect of the Capitol to take steps to remove the statues.
“Indeed, what the Confederate statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection represent is anathema to who we are as a Congress and a country,” she said in a statement. “I agree that the Joint Committee and Architect of the Capitol should expediently remove these symbols of cruelty and bigotry from the halls of the Capitol. I stand ready, and call on the Chair of the Joint Committee to swiftly approve the removal of these statues.”
Blunt seemed inclined to let states decide which statues they want to represent them. He noted that some states have already been rotating new ones in.
“There are at least 3 or 4 new statues in process right now, including Missouri, that’s putting Harry Truman in and taking Thomas Hart Benton out, who happened to be a slaveholder,” Blunt told reporters. “Congress can do whatever they want to, but I think my view would be, unless there’s specific congressional action that voids the agreement with the states, the states appear to be headed in this direction anyway and that’s the better way to deal with it.”
A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pelosi previously called for removing Confederate statues from the Capitol in 2017, when former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was speaker.
Nothing came of that request.