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Charles Schumer Pushes For D.C. Recognition in Statuary Hall

The rules say the District of Columbia’s non-state status precludes it from hosting a statue in the Capitol, namely one of famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Some Senators, however, are taking steps to bypass bureaucratic hurdles so the statue can take up permanent residence on Capitol Hill after four years of temporary lodgings at Judiciary Square.

First, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed its fiscal 2013 spending bill that funds D.C.’s budget, which included a provision authorizing the Douglass statue to be displayed in the Capitol.

On Thursday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a separate concurrent resolution directing the Joint Committee on the Library to accept the Douglass statue.

Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which oversees the Capitol grounds, is also chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library. That Schumer is also introducing the resolution on behalf of a fellow New Yorker — Douglass resided in Rochester from 1847 to 1872 — also makes him an obvious choice for a sponsor.

“It’s inexcusable to let a statue of one of the greatest heroes in our nation ... collect cobwebs in a city government building less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol where it belongs,” Schumer said in a statement. “After five years of inexcusable legislative struggle, Congress must forge ahead to make progress in celebrating the legacy of a brave man who helped to shape our nation as the land of the free.”

The statue, completed by architect Steven Weitzman in 2007, depicts Douglass accompanied by a quote from a speech he delivered in Canandaigua, N.Y., in 1857 that reads, “Without struggle, there is no progress.”

It would be only the fourth of more than 180 statues and busts in the Capitol to feature an African-American. Carvings of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are already featured.

Schumer said that once Congress passes the resolution, he would stay closely involved in expediting the transfer of the statue to the Capitol.

But while some Senators might be committed to bringing the statue to the Hill, Congress as a whole has had trouble moving similar legislation over the years to accomplish this goal.

In the 111th Congress, when Democrats controlled both chambers, the House passed a measure to install a D.C.-sponsored statue in the Capitol, but it was never passed in the Senate.

Current chairman Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) also introduced legislation in 2011 that would allow D.C. to be represented by a statute in the Capitol, but it has not yet been considered. Spokeswoman Salley Wood said he would support Schumer’s efforts and the language included in the Senate appropriations bill.

The House Appropriations Committee also did not follow its Senate counterpart’s example of including language to allow for the statue to move to the Hill in the fiscal 2013 financial services spending bill it passed Wednesday.

And then there’s the Architect of the Capitol to contend with.

“Until the original legislation is amended, only statues from the 50 states are allowed, by law, in the National Statuary Hall Collection,” AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said recently.

Correction: June 21
This story has been corrected to reflect that the House passed a version of the D.C. statue bill in the 111th Congress. Also, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of current statues of African-Americans. There are three.

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