/Hyde-Smith at center of debate on removing Confederate statues from US Capitol

Hyde-Smith at center of debate on removing Confederate statues from US Capitol

Last month, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending measure for the legislative branch that would remove 14 statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” from the Capitol building. Hyde-Smith is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which reviews and approves spending bills to finance the legislative branch. Her subcommittee will need to examine the House measure. “Sen. Hyde Smith respects the work done by her House counterparts but will work with her Senate counterparts on a Senate legislative branch legislation,” said Chris Gallegos, Hyde Smith spokesperson. Congress gave authority to each state in 1864 to display two statues at Capitol of citizens “illustrious” for their historical renown, or distinguished civic or military service. Mississippi is the only country that has two Confederate statues: Jefferson Davis and James Zachariah George. Davis was a slaveowner, president of the Confederacy and George was the chief architect of the 1890 state Constitution which stripped voting rights from almost 150,000 Black Mississippians. Both men were born in Mississippi. After being approved by the state Legislature, 1924, the Mississippi statues were erected in 1931. Photos of Hyde Smith in Confederate memorabilia at Davis’ home Beauvoir were taken during the 2018 Senate special election. This museum is now owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hyde-Smith was a Mississippi state senator and sponsored legislation for a Mississippi highway to be named after Davis. Hyde-Smith answered a question about recent attempts to remove statues from U.S. Capitol. He said that it was up to the states to decide the fate of the statues and not the federal government. Hyde-Smith stated last month that there are clear rules and procedures for the placement, receipt, and designation of statues at the United States Capitol. If a state wants to exchange statues, it can, even Mississippi. While it is difficult to depict our nation’s history in the best way possible, Congress does not have the right to decide which statues should go in the Capitol. In recent years, the Mississippi Legislature has introduced bills to replace state statues at the U.S. Capitol. A proposal was made to replace George’s statue with Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights leader from Mississippi who led the fight for voting rights for African Americans during the 1960s. This bill, as well as more than a dozen other bills in the last 10 years, was killed in committee. After the deaths of George Floyd, and other Black Americans, by police officers, heated debate has raged about the issue of removing Confederate monuments and emblems. This prompted national protests against racial inequality within government. The debate resulted in Mississippi’s removal of its state flag from Mississippi, which was 126 years old and featured the Confederate battle icon. Hyde-Smith’s 2020 Senate opponent is Espy. He has centered his campaign strategy around race during this national movement. “Sen. Espy stated in a statement that Hyde-Smith was refusing to exercise her power to remove Confederate statues at the U.S. Capitol. “J.Z. and Jefferson Davis are not the best representations of Mississippi. George… These men are not representative of all Mississippians and don’t project a positive image of our state. Mississippians are fed up with Sen. Hyde Smith’s insistence on keeping the state in the past. They are ready to move forward. Hyde Smith caused controversy during her 2018 special election against Espy, where both were running to replace long-time senator Thad Cochran. She said that she would be invited to sit in the front row for a hanging by a supporter she was praising. She also stated that votes from students at other state universities should be suppressed while campaigning at Mississippi State University. She claimed she was only laughing at the time. Only one of Mississippi’s four congressional members, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thomson, voted for the House spending plan, which included the removals of the statues. The measure was opposed by Trent Kelly, Michael Guest, and Steven Palazzo, Republican Congressmen. When Hyde-Smith was asked earlier this year about the statues, Roger Wicker, Mississippi’s senior senator, shared similar views to Hyde-Smith. Wicker stated in June that it would be a mistake for Congress not to remove statues in the U.S. Capitol from Mississippi or other states. “I believe such an overreach would be counterproductive for the healthy conversations about race taking place across the country. Federal law states that the state governments have sole responsibility for choosing and replacing statues representing their states._x000D