Burgess in the News

Five Texas Republicans join vote to remove all Confederate statues from U.S. Capitol

The legislators joined the 62 other members of the GOP who supported the Democrat-backed measure, which now must face the Senate.

By Emily Caldwell | Dallas Morning News

When the House of Representatives voted Tuesday to remove all Confederate statues from public display in the U.S. Capitol, 67 Republicans were in favor — including five from Texas.

Dr. Michael Burgess of Pilot Point, Dan Crenshaw of Houston, Tony Gonzales of San Antonio, Michael McCaul of Austin and Van Taylor of Plano voted for the measure. Many Texas Republicans missed the vote a day before Gov. Greg Abbott and Donald Trump visited the border. 

“I believe it is very important that we know history. It was Republicans who freed the slaves, won the civil war, and elected the first black members of Congress. The statues in question are Democrats,” Burgess said in a statement to The Dallas Morning News.

The bill would also replace the bust of former Supreme Court justice Roger Brooke Taney, a fervent supporter of slavery, in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber with a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s first Black justice.

If the measure becomes law, Capitol administration and staff will have 45 days to remove the statues and busts and return them to either the states that provided them or to storage. States can then choose to replace the returned statue with another honoree.

“Congress should ease the process for states to change their statues in the Capitol,” Burgess said. “Our Capitol was designed as a symbol of freedom and the statues within should illuminate those who strived to make this union more perfect.” 

Majority leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, first introduced the bill, which garnered 18 cosponsors before it passed 285 to 120. Every Democrat who voted supported the legislation, with all “no” votes coming from Republicans. Now it’s on its way to the Senate, where it will face an evenly divided chamber. 

Several Texas Republicans did vote against the measure, including Dallas-area Reps. Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Lance Gooden of Terrell.

Taney was chief justice of the Supreme Court when he authored the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared Black Americans could not become U.S. citizens and therefore not sue in U.S. courts, ruling against a slave suing for his freedom.

He also held that the federal government didn’t have the authority to prohibit slavery in U.S. territories. A statue commemorating Taney was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House in 2017.

“Taney’s authorship of Dred Scott v. Sandford, the effects of which would only be overturned years later by the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, renders a bust of his likeness unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the United States Capitol,” the bill reads.

The legislation also calls for the removal of three statues by name, all of which memorialize lawmakers who defended slavery and segregation: Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun and James Paul Clarke.