WV Public Broadcasting
All three Republican members of West Virginia’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday against a measure that would remove confederate statues from the building where they work.
The effort comes as statues, memorials and other displays honoring the Confederacy have come down across the United States as a result of wide protest over the past year against racial injustice and a reckoning with the history of American slavery.
The House passed H.R. 3005 Tuesday evening on a 285-120 vote, with all no votes coming from Republicans. Democrats unanimously supported the bill and were joined by 67 Republicans.
The bill calls on the Joint Committee on the Library and the Capitol Architect to replace the bust of Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the U.S. Capitol with a bust of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the bench of the nation’s high court.
Taney was the author of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared that people of African descent were not citizens of the United States.
H.R. 3005 would also remove certain statues from areas that are publicly accessible and would remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America.
Current federal law calls for each state’s legislature to select two statues to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Under H.R. 3005, any statues removed as part of the legislation would be returned to their home states.
West Virginia’s two statues include John E. Kenna, a Kanawha County native who joined the Confederate Army before later serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Francis Harrison Pierpont, a supporter of President Abraham Lincoln who became the provisional governor of West Virginia upon statehood.
Given the intent and focus of H.R. 3005, Kenna’s statue would be removed from the U.S. Capitol and returned to West Virginia.
Rep. David McKinley, who serves in West Virginia’s 1st District, said the issue is one that rests with individual states, which is why he decided to vote against H.R. 3005.
“Each state was allowed to place two statues in Statuary Hall. Congress should not usurp the authority of states. If the West Virginia legislature chooses to replace John E. Kenna with another statue, that is within their authority,” McKinley said. “Several other states are already considering replacing theirs.”
“If Congress opts to replace Chief Justice Roger B. Taney with Thurgood Marshall that’s within their jurisdiction,” McKinley added.
Rep. Alex Mooney also said the decision on what statues are displayed in the U.S. Capitol is one that should lie with individual states. But Mooney, who serves in West Virginia’s 2nd District, also accused Democrats of politicizing the effort.
“I voted against Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats’ effort to remove statues individual states sent to be honored in the Capitol,” Mooney said. “It is up to individual states to decide which statutes they want to be presented in the Capitol, not Nancy Pelosi and the ever-changing standards of political correctness from the Left.”
Rep. Carol Miller, from the state’s 3rd District, echoed the statements from her West Virginia congressional colleagues.
“Rep. Miller voted against the bill because this is a process between states, the Architect of the Capitol, and the Joint Committee on the Library,” Miller’s office said in a news release. “This was yet another messaging bill that House Democrats pushed to try to gain political points on an issue that Rep. Miller, and her Republican and Democrat colleagues alike, already agree on – There is no place for racism in America.”
Spokespersons for the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates both said there are no current plans to remove or replace either of West Virginia’s two statues on display in the U.S. Capitol.
While statues and other markers honoring members of the confederacy — namely Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson — have been widely debated in West Virginia over the past year, few removals or alterations have taken place.
Statues of Jackson are prominently displayed on the grounds of the state capital in Charleston as well as outside the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg. However, the Kanawha County Board of Education voted last fall to rename a middle school that was originally dedicated in Jackson’s honor.