Schumer Floor Remarks As Republicans Block Passage Of Legislation To Remove Confederate Statues From U.S. Capitol

June 18, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today took to the Senate floor with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to attempt to immediately pass unanimous consent to pass the Confederate Monument Removal Act to remove Confederate statues from the United States Capitol. Senator Blunt (R-MO) objected to the unanimous consent motion. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:

First, I want to thank my dear friend, the Senator from New Jersey. Our caucus and the American people are lucky to have him as champion not only for this bill, but for all his work in recent years on legislation related to police reform, racial justice, and so many other issues.

In a moment, my friend will ask to pass a bill that will do something very simple and, indeed, long overdue: it will remove the statues here in Capitol of men who would rend this country apart by war in order to strengthen, perpetuate, and extend the vile institution of slavery.

There is a movement in America right now that demands we confront the poison of racism in our country. We must do this in many ways, both substantive and symbolic. This bill is just one of many steps we must take to acknowledge the painful history of America’s original sin—slavery—and to clarify for all generations that the men who defended it shall hold no place of honor in our nation’s history books.

States and localities are removing confederate statues in their public parks and municipal buildings. NASCAR has banned the confederate flag at its events. We will soon debate renaming military installations after confederate generals. Why should the Capitol of all places—a symbol of the Union and a place where every American is supposed to have representation—continue to venerate such ignoble figures?

Opponents of this bill will say that removing these statues is akin to forgetting or trying to erase history. No it is not. Remembering history is a lot different than celebrating it.

We teach history in our schools and universities and museums. No doubt the Civil War will continue to merit study. But statues and memorials are symbols of honor, and we need not reserve them for men who represent such a dishonorable cause.

Now, Leader McConnell has ducked this issue and has said that the States should continue to decide who to send to 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. You know, there’s a reason Connecticut doesn’t send a statue of Benedict Arnold to the Capitol.

We have a lot of work to do to unwind centuries of racial injustice embedded in our laws and in our institutions. One of the simplest things we could do is to haul out the statues of a few old racists who represent the very antithesis of the building in which we now stand and the ideals we struggle to live up to. This, my friends, is the easy part.

Let us pass this bill today. And send a message to the American people that we are serious about dismantling institutional racism piece by piece, brick by brick, statue by statue, starting with our own house, the people’s house: the nation’s Capitol building. 

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