Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt moved this week to slow a push to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
At issue was a bill from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., that would give the boot to 11 statues sent by states to represent them in Statuary Hall, including one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.
The Democrats were attempting to pass the bill via unanimous consent, which allows a bill to pass without a formal vote if no one objects.
In an appeal to colleagues, Booker, who is Black, said having the statues in the collection outside the Capitol rotunda is "a painful, insulting, difficult injury" and "an affront to African Americans and the ideals of our nation."
Schumer added that is also a bit ridiculous to have monuments to traitors in the capitol.
"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," Schumer continued. "You know, there is a reason that Connecticut doesn't send a statue of Benedict Arnold."
But Blunt objected, noting the bill would end a 156-year-old agreement with states without consultation.
"I’d certainly like to have some time to see if we should have a hearing on this," he said.
He added that he’d also like to see what the states planned to do with the statues themselves.
Each state is allowed two statues in Statuary Hall and, in recent years, some states have made plans to replace old statues of Confederates and white supremacists with monuments to civil rights leaders.
Florida, for example, is currently planning to replace its statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with one of Mary McLeod Bethune, a civil rights leader and educator.
"I’m encouraged that states are looking at their history," Blunt said.
The debate over the statues comes amid a national reckoning on American racism sparked by the death of a Black man in Minnesota police custody on Memorial Day.
The Senate is also considering a Democratic plan to rename 10 Army installations named for Confederate officers, with which Blunt has expressed little issue.
But Blunt said there's a difference between that effort and the bill to remove the Capitol statues because Congress has no agreement with states on the base names.
Josh Hawley, Missouri’s other Republican senator, has taken the opposite tack on the bases, saying requiring the military to rename installations like Fort Bragg, named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, would "erase" history at the behest of a "woke mob" trying to divide Americans.
That stance aligns him with President Donald Trump, another Republican, but it’s not clear how attached his colleagues are to the names.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, signaled to reporters earlier this week he’s open to renaming bases, too.
"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," McConnell said. "With regard to military bases, whatever is ultimately decided, I don’t have a problem with."
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.