The city of Washington, DC, the capital of the US that has a population of about 700,000 and covers about 68 square miles, is by design not part of any state. The running of the city is under the exclusive direction of the US Congress. While Congress has devolved certain powers to a mayor and city council, it retains the right to overturn any actions that the local government may take.
In the wake of all the protests against police brutality, the House of Representatives voted on July 22 to remove all confederate statues from the Capitol building, with many Republicans joining the Democratic colleagues.
The legislation passed through the House with bipartisan support 305 to 113, including 72 GOP lawmakers joining a unified Democratic Party in voting for the statues’ removal, while 113 Republicans opposed the measure. While states and communities grapple with how to remove or contextualize statues in different parts of the country, the legislation targeted the iconography specifically in the Capitol and directed the removal of “all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America.” The bill also specifically called for the removal of five statues, including a bust of former U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the odious majority decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case that defended slavery. The bill proposes replacing the Taney figure with a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
In addition to the Taney statue, the New York Times notes, “also targeted for removal are the statues of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the former vice president who led the pro-slavery faction in the Senate; John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, a former vice president who served as the Confederate secretary of war and was expelled from the Senate for joining the Confederate Army; Charles Brantley Aycock, the former governor of North Carolina and an architect of a violent coup d’état in Wilmington led by white supremacists; and James Paul Clarke, a senator and governor of Arkansas who extolled the need to ‘preserve the white standards of civilization.’ ”
But to achieve actual removal, the measure has to be approved by the Senate as well. The problem is that that body’s Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell is ever solicitous of the wishes of his Dear Leader Trump whose white nationalist sympathies are quite clear and is thus unlikely to support such an action.