McConnell refuses to denounce Confederate statues at the Capitol


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants all Confederate memorials removed from the U.S. Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come out against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to remove all Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. His reasoning: states' rights.

"Every state is allowed two statues, they can trade them out at any time ... a number of states are trading them out now. But I think that's the appropriate way to deal with the statue issue. The states make that decision," McConnell told reporters on Thursday. "I think the appropriate way to deal with this issue is to stick with the tradition."

Pelosi called Wednesday for the removal of 11 statues of Confederate figures from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. "Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals," she wrote in a letter to colleagues. "Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed."

Pelosi noted that the figures depicted include Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander Stephens, both of whom "were charged with treason against the United States."

Around the country, Confederate monuments and other racist statues are being removed from public display as the nation grapples with systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and amid mass protests against police violence. Statues have been removed or ordered down in recent days in places from Mobile, Alabama, to Alexandria, Virginia, to Jacksonville, Florida.

Many Americans continue to believe or push the myth that the Civil War was fought over states' rights. Republicans have asserted this in the past — in April, for instance, an official with the Wisconsin Republican Party claimed "the Confederacy was more about states' rights than slavery." PolitiFact has ranked this claim and others like it a "Pants-on-Fire" lie.

McConnell has used states' rights arguments the past. Last year he opposed a House package of reforms that included voting rights enhancements, complaining it amounted to "federalizing the electoral process."

"For the past two years, our united Republican government drained money and power from Washington and returned it to states, communities and families," he complained in an op-ed published in the Washington Post. "Democrats have a different philosophy. After November's elections, everyone knew Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the new House would send the Senate far-left proposals to retighten Washington's grip on the country."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.