Almost 9 In 10 House Republicans Voted To Put A Confederate Memorial Back At Arlington

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The overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted to have a memorial to Confederate soldiers reinstalled at Arlington National Cemetery, drawing a sharp rebuke from Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Congress’ highest-ranking Black lawmaker.

The vote Thursday was on an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that’s seen as a must-pass piece of legislation. It would have required the secretary of the Army to reinstall the memorial in its original location in the nation’s most celebrated military veteran graveyard and not designate it as anything other than a “reconciliation” memorial or monument.

The amendment, though, failed to get a majority, as Democrats voted unanimously against it and were joined by 24 GOP House members. But 192 Republicans, or about 87% of the party in the House, voted in favor, drawing fire Friday morning from Jeffries.

“What is the rationale?” he asked, dismissing arguments proponents had made about the historical role of the monument.

“What Confederate tradition are you upholding? Is it slavery? Rape? Kidnap? Jim Crow? Lynching? Racial oppression? Or all of the above? What exactly is the Confederate tradition that extreme [Make America Great Again] Republicans in 2024 are upholding?”

A defense policy bill that passed over then-President Donald Trump’s veto in the waning days of his administration required the monument’s removal.

The art piece was unveiled in 1914 and sculpted by a Confederate veteran, Moses Jacob Ezekiel. Made of bronze and resting on a 32-foot granite pedestal, it featured a woman symbolizing the South holding a laurel wreath, a plow handle and a pruning hook, a reference to the Biblical injunction to turn swords into plows.

Below her was a frieze of 32 figures, which “depict mythical gods alongside Southern soldiers and civilians,” according to the cemetery’s website. Among those figures are a Confederate soldier handing off his infant to an enslaved African-American woman for caretaking and an enslaved man in uniform following his owner into battle.

In December 2023, the bronze elements making up most of the memorial were removed while the now-empty granite pedestal was left intact to avoid disturbing graves nearby.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), the amendment’s sponsor, said on the House floor that the memorial had been intended to help bring Americans together and had historical significance.

“Let us unite against the destruction of our history. Let us fight for the principles of healing and unity, which is exactly what this memorial was created to accomplish,” he said.

Asked about Jeffries’ criticism Friday, Clyde said calling the sculpture a Confederate memorial was unfair.

“If you go back and you look at the speeches when that monument was dedicated, you will see it was all about unity, healing,” he said. “That’s what it was about. And to say anything else is disingenuous. And honestly, a flat-out lie.”

Arlington National Cemetery, however, begs to differ, calling the monument simply a “Confederate Memorial” on its website and noting its “highly sanitized depictions of slavery.”

In the debate on the amendment, Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) said the memorial’s dedication in 1914, well after the Civil War and Reconstruction, and its subject matter show it was not meant to be unifying.

“When this monument was placed, the gentleman said it was for reconciliation, but for who? Not for the Black Americans who saw that monument then, and even today, and see the images of a mammy and a loyal slave following his master into battle. They know what that means,” she said.

“It conjures up the stereotypes that were used to help build the lie of white supremacy, and the stereotypes that were used to help convince Black people to stay in their place,” McClellan said.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) agreed.

“It is very difficult to see how the humiliating portrayal of a slave woman and a slave man represents reconciliation,” he said.

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.