Booker Plans Bill to Remove Confederate Statues From Capitol

Booker Plans Bill to Remove Confederate Statues From Capitol

An African-American Democratic senator often mentioned as a possible 2020 presidential candidate intends to introduce a bill that would force the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.

But the president appears strongly opposed to putting such statues in storage.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced his plan late Wednesday night in a tweet, just days after white supremacist groups and left-leaning counter-protesters clashed on Friday night and Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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“I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building,” Booker wrote.

He called the potential move “just one step,” adding the country has “much work to do” on race relations and related topics.

There are a dozen Confederate statues in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, according to the Architect of the Capitol. That list includes statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who commanded the secessionist states’ military during the Civil War.

It was a plan by Charlottesville officials to take down a Lee statute there that drew the white supremacist groups to organize their Friday night torch march and Saturday protest.

Other African-American lawmakers this week have said they want the Capitol’s Confederate statues to be removed. A Congressional Black Caucus spokesperson told Roll Call, however, that the group is not crafting any legislation to that end.

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Whether any such bill could pass both chambers is questionable. It is not clear Republicans, especially ones hailing from southern states where Confederate figures remain iconic, would risk angering constituents by voting to remove the statues heading into the 2018 midterm election cycle.

What’s more, President Donald Trump would have to sign the legislation into law. But he made his view of Confederate statutes clear during a combative press conference on Tuesday, during which the president appeared to give cover to Confederate Flag-toting white supremacists who participated in the Charlottesville protests and are part of his political base — which he talks about and praises often.

“This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down,” Trump fumed. “I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

The president did say that is should be up to local officials to decide whether to take down Confederate statues.

But in Thursday morning tweets, the president said that the history and culture of the country was being “ripped apart” by removing “our beautiful statues and monuments.”

Booker could be playing right into the White House’s hands. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who has been accused by Republicans and Democrats alike for alleged ties to alt-right and pro-white groups, this week made clear he welcomes debates about race.

“The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em," he told the American Prospect publication — though he has since claimed he did not know the conversation was on the record.

“I want them to talk about racism every day,” Bannon said. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

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