Leaders Content to Leave Confederate Statues in US Capitol Despite Flag Uproar

PHOTO: Mississippis statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2015. Bill Clark/AP Photo
Mississippi's statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2015.

Despite a growing chorus of calls to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol and the Mississippi flag, nearly a dozen statues of Confederate leaders and those associated with the movement are still standing in the U.S. Capitol building. And several Southern lawmakers say they’re content to keep it that way –- at least for now.

Eleven of the 100 statues of "notable citizens" sent to Washington from all 50 states are figures associated with the Confederacy, including both from South Carolina, which depict John Calhoun, a vocal antebellum defender of slavery, and Wade Hampton, a Confederate Cavalry officer with ties to postwar white supremacists.

Other states with statues of figures associated with the Confederacy include North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama.

South Carolina's senators, who both support the flag's removal, said focus should remain on the flag and the families of the Charleston shooting victims.

"I'm trying to deal with the flag and nothing else," Sen. Lindsey Graham said when asked about the statues. "That's what I'm going to be focused on."

His colleague in the senate, Tim Scott, said: "I’m not going to make a push to move them...The focus should be on the families.”

One South Carolina state legislator who plans to introduce a bill to remove the flag in Columbia said he had not considered the statues, but is worried about losing momentum on the flag initiative.

"There's one symbol I want to remove, and that's the Confederate flag," said state Rep. Doug Brannon, who plans to introduce a bill to remove the battle flag from the Capitol grounds.

Requests for comment from other state legislators, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the entire South Carolina House delegation were not returned.

Much like the flags, a statue at the U.S. Capitol can be removed and replaced by a resolution from a state’s legislature and approved by its governor. But some suggested the historical figures would be harder to part with.

"I don’t think we can just erase history,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. "States will have to wrestle with that."

One figure facing scrutiny is Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy’s only president.

While his statue has stood in the Capitol since 1931, students at the University of Texas are calling for it to be removed from the University of Texas at Austin campus, according to the Texas Tribune.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on Tuesday that a statue of Davis in the Kentucky state Capitol should end up in a museum, but did not address the version in the U.S. Capitol.

"Maybe a better place for that would be the Kentucky history museum," he said, adding that Davis was only born in Kentucky, being mostly identified with Mississippi

And on Tuesday Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, laughed off a question about the Davis statue at the U.S. Capitol, only saying it's "part of our history."

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