Floor Speech on H.R. 3005, Legislation to Remove Monuments of Confederate Supporters and White Supremacists from Capitol
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 3005, which would remove monuments of Confederate supporters and white supremacists from the U.S. Capitol, as well as replace a bust of racist former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I thank Madam Chair for yielding and for her leadership on this very important issue. And the point that she makes is interesting because, actually, in terms of the 14th Amendment, when Black Americans were given the right to vote, it was the Republicans who were the votes to make that happen, and the Democrats – to a person – voted against it. So, your point is well taken. Now we're in a fight to protect that right to vote. We'll have that conversation another day.
Today, we are here for a very specific purpose. Madam Speaker, this weekend we observe the birth of our nation, the Fourth of July, when Americans joyfully celebrate the birth of America's independence and the blessings of liberty. As we do so, we solemnly recognize that those blessings have been denied to so many throughout our nation's history out of sheer bigotry and racism. This holiday, while a celebration, is also an opportunity to take steps to right the wrongs of history, starting here – right here in the U.S. Capitol.
That is why today we're again passing legislation to remove statues of Confederate officials and other advocates of bigotry and removing them from the U.S. Capitol. As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues that we display should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men or people who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to those ideals. They're homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.
Thank you to Leader Steny Hoyer, who has been advocating this for a long time. He took charge and worked with Whip Jim Clyburn, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, Chair Bennie Thompson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman G. K. Butterfield, whom we just heard from, and you, Madam Chair. Thank you – you and others – for your leadership. This action builds on action taken last Juneteenth when, using my authority as House Speaker, I ordered the removal of four portraits of past Speakers from the Capitol who traitorously served in the Confederacy. Among the Confederate statues in the Capitol that we are addressing today are Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederacy. Respectfully – both of whom were charged with treason against America. This legislation also removes from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol the bust of Justice Roger Taney, a defender of slavery and author of the 1857 Dread Scott ruling, one of the most horrific stains on our nation and our Court's history. Mr. Hoyer has been particularly interested in removing Justice Taney.
Removing these statues will not erase the stain and that of other racist acts in our history, nor will it erase racism that exists in our country today. But it is an important and necessary step. How can we seek to end the scourge of racism, including the passing the George – we could do so by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which you have championed, Madam Speaker – when we allow the worst perpetrators of that racism to be lauded in the halls of Congress? Congress has the opportunity and the obligation to make meaningful change. Let us lead by example.
The Taney bust will be replaced by a tribute to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, an icon of equality and justice and champion of justice in America. I'm very proud of Justice Marshall's Baltimore roots, as a native Baltimorean. And I'm happy that our Baltimore airport is named for him. His words – Justice Thurgood Marshall's words – uttered nearly 30 years ago, must be our inspiration. He said, ‘America must get to work. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust.’ He went on further to say, ‘We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.’ His words were later echoed by our Baltimore brother, Elijah Cummings, who said, ‘We are better than this. We can do better for the children.’
I urge a strong bipartisan vote on this important step ‘to do better,’ to do right – to right the wrongs of history and to move our nation toward a future of justice. And I do so with gratitude for all of the champions who have brought us to this important day. I urge a strong bipartisan vote and yield back the balance of my time.