Pelosi could hide statues of Confederate leaders at the Capitol

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Congress could hide some of the Confederate statues dotting the Capitol into some dark corner outside of the public view to avoid a lengthy battle over removing statues completely that states want on display.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did it once before. During her first term as speaker she moved the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee of Virginia from prominence in Statuary Hall, to the crypt, one level below.

Pelosi on Thursday touted her authority to "relegate Robert E. Lee to the crypt."

"I could move things around. I couldn't actually take them out," she said. "That requires something else."

While she wants the controversial statues removed totally, she's open to exercising her moving authority again if the necessary parties don't agree to take them down.

"We'll see," Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "I always like to start with a feather. Let's see how we can have consensus about this."

PELOSI URGES CONGRESS TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE STATUES IN A LETTER

Certain statues on display in the Capitol are at the discretion of states. Each state gets to honor two icons at the Capitol in Statuary Hall and it's up to state officials to decide who will be on display. While Congress can't remove the statues unilaterally, they have the discretion to move their location in the Capitol.

The debate at the Capitol is raging as symbols of the Confederacy are coming in down with rapid speed nationwide. In recent days, statues around the country have been toppled, defaced and targeted for removal as protesters demand that symbols of the United States' painful history of slavery and racial inequality no longer be celebrated.

Wednesday night protesters pulled down a bronze statue Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. A Confederate monument in Jacksonville, Fla. came down Tuesday morning. A day earlier, in Indianapolis, a 35-foot monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers was taken down. The mayor in Birmingham, Ala. led the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument a week ago.

Pelosi called for the removal of nearly a dozen Confederate statues of soldiers and officers, from the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday, following the death of George Floyd and dayslong protests against racial injustice nationwide.

In a letter Wednesday to Joint Committee on the Library Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Vice Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Pelosi wrote, “The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation.”

Pelosi pointed out that two of the statues currently in National Statuary Hall, a landmark in the Capitol housing various historical members, are the statues of the president and vice president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens – both of whom were charged with treason against the United States.

"They committed treason against the United States of America and their statues are still here because their state put them here," Pelosi said Thursday.

HOYER SUPPORTS REMOVAL OF CONFEDERATE STATUES IN US CAPITOL, WANTS BUST OF JUDGE TAKEN DOWN IMMEDIATELY

Pelosi can control the locations of statues on the House side of the Capitol. But any decision to completely remove given statues – and certainly those in the Capitol Rotunda or on Senate side of the Capitol, must be made jointly between the House and Senate.

In 2008, also under Pelosi’s watch, the statue of Wade Hampton of South Carolina was moved from the “Will Rogers” area just off the House floor, to an obscure, non-public location, three levels underground, near the entrance to the Congressional Auditorium.

Hampton had expressed sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan. Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, walked past that statue Wednesday into the House Judiciary Committee hearing as he testified on police abuse.

Pelosi brought up the nationwide demands for racial equality and justice in the wake of Floyd's death and said the timing is now to remove these statues from pro-slavery figures.

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"These statues have to go from the Capitol," Pelosi said.

Fox News' Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.