WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory A. Booker jumped into the roiling debate over Confederate monuments Thursday, calling for removing all Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
"I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building," Booker, one of the three black senators, wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning. The New Jersey Democrat added, "This is just one step. We have much work to do."
In a statement issued by his office, Booker later said Confederate statues should be put in a museum.
"The Capitol is a place for all Americans to come and feel welcomed, encouraged, and inspired," the statement read. "Confederate statues do the opposite. They are, unequivocally, not only statues of treasonous Americans, but are symbolic to some who seek to revise history and advance hate and division. To millions of Americans, they are painful, injurious symbols of bigotry and hate, celebrating individuals who sought to break our nation asunder and preserve the vile institution of slavery and white supremacy."
Booker's tweet came roughly an hour after President Trump decried the removal of Confederate statues in some parts of the country, an issue that has come to the forefront of a tense debate in the aftermath of last weekend's demonstration by neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members in Charlottesville, Va., and their clashes with counterprotesters.
"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues," Trump wrote in one Tweet. He followed up, "Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!"
There are a dozen statues in the Capitol honoring Confederate fighters or political leaders, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to the office of the Architect of the Capitol and the Washington Post. Each state is represented by two statues in the Capitol. Governors and legislatures decide on who is memorialized for their states and sometimes voluntarily change who is represented.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have previously called for removal of statues tied to Civil War rebels — without success. The group renewed their request this week.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) joined the call to remove statutes tied to the Confederacy.
"The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible. If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately," she wrote in a statement Thursday.
It was not quickly clear how much more support Booker's bill might attract, and lawmakers won't return to Washington until after Labor Day.
A Ryan spokesperson told Bloomberg News the decisions should be left up to the states.