The House of Representatives voted 285-120 in favor of a bill that would remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
While 67 House Republicans joined with every Democrat to approve the resolution, 120 Republicans voted against it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana both voted in favor of removing the controversial statues at the Capitol. Figures on display include Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederacy Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens.
The third-ranking Republican in the House, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, voted against making the changes. The majority of Republicans who opposed the legislation accused Democrats of using the bill as a political stunt while tying the effort to a recent political battle over critical race theory—an academic concept that examines race in the historical context of institutionalized racism. Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana insisted that statues of former President George Washington would be targeted next.
“Unfortunately, Democrats, animated by the Critical Race Theory concepts of structural racism, microaggressions, and a United States based solely on white supremacy, have chosen to remove statues that underscore the failures of our pre-1861 Constitution,” Rosendale said in a statement. “Make no mistake, those who won the West and George Washington are next.”
A similar resolution passed in the House last year but did not advance in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time. McCarthy voted in favor of both measures but on Tuesday noted that the statues that would be removed under the legislation were of people who had been members of the Democratic Party. He then accused modern Democrats of racism.
“All of the statues being removed by this bill are statutes of Democrats,” McCarthy said from the House floor. “Today, the Democratic Party has doubled down on what I consider this shameful history by replacing the racism of the past with the racism of the critical race theory.”
“Critical race theory is the governing ideology [that] we’re now finding in the Biden administration,” he continued. “By advocating for it, Democrats continue to fuel hatred and division across the country… America is not a racist country.”
Besides requiring the removal of any statues of people who fought for the Confederacy, the legislation also mandates the removal of several other statues associated with white supremacy. The replacement of a bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision that found Black people were not American citizens, is a key provision.
Taney’s ruling, which many historians have since dubbed the worst ever rendered by the nation’s highest court, was nullified by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. The bill would replace Taney’s bust with a bust of former Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black person to serve on the Supreme Court.
“In the iniquitous Dred Scott decision, Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney ruled that Black Americans were not U.S. citizens,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) tweeted. “I just voted to remove a bust of him from the Capitol and replace it with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice.”
The bill will need to be passed in the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden to take effect. Current rules require that the states that donated statues to the Capitol must approve of their removal before any action is taken. A statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee was removed last December at the request of Virginia’s government.
Newsweek reached out to the GOP for comment.