Montana state legislators vote to rebuild Confederate monument in Arlington

Get an inside look at what's happening in and around the centers of power with expert reporting, analysis and insights from Montana Free Press editors and reporters. Sign up to receive the free Capitolized newsletter delivered to your inbox every Thursday..

20 June 2024

Let’s just call it a “monumental” decision.

The last item on the U.S. House agenda before lawmakers left town for a week-long recess on June 15 was a three-day arduous debate over amendments that culminated in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Among the amendments to this law was No. 44, which reignited a simmering debate over a bronze Confederate monument. It depicts a life-sized black “Mammy” holding up a white child to kiss him goodbye from his war-weary father. A black slave following his uniformed owner is also depicted as part of the “reconciliation monument.”

The amendment “directs the Secretary of the Army to move the Memorial of Reconciliation, also known as the Monument of Reconciliation, to its original location in Arlington National Cemetery.”

After numerous legal disputes, the monument was removed from the Federal Cemetery in December 2023.

Both Montana representatives, Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke, voted for the measure proposed by Georgia Republican Representative Andrew Clyde. Amendment 44 was defeated by a vote of 198 to 230. Only 24 Republicans in the House opposed it.

“Zinke does not support the removal of monuments and memorials as a matter of principle,” Chief of Staff Heather Swift told Capitolized. “Provide context and clarify when necessary, but erasing history is not the answer.”

A text message to Rosendale's deputy chief of staff went unanswered.

The NDAA is a must-pass bill that sets the level of funding for military spending.

Congress has used the law since 2015 to mandate the removal of Confederate references from government facilities. Confederate flags have been taken down and military bases named after Confederate officers have been renamed. Monuments, including the Reconciliation Monument, have been dismantled or relocated.

The turning point in public opinion that sparked the movement to remove the monument was the murder of nine black attendees at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. States and cities followed the federal government's lead, including Helena, which removed its Confederate monument from Hill Park in 2017.

The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 and the protests that followed gave further momentum to the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces – a momentum that did not extend to Donald Trump’s White House.

Trump vetoed the NDAA in 2020, in part because he had “made clear his opposition to politically motivated attempts like this one to erase history and dishonor the immense progress our country has fought for in realizing our founding principles,” according to his letter to Congress explaining the decision. Trump's statement on Twitter was less sensitive.

Montana has historically been slow to respond to racial issues. The state government did not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday until 1991, eight years after President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into federal law. Montana was three states shy of being the last state to do so.

There are currently 19 states that do not recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday, including Montana. When the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the holiday in 2021, which commemorates the end of slavery and the end of the Civil War, Rosendale was one of 14 lawmakers who opposed the bill.

After the vote, Rosendale tweeted that the introduction of Juneteenth was an attempt to undermine the Fourth of July holiday.

Both Montana lawmakers signed a letter in December opposing the removal of the Reconciliation Monument. The letter argued that the monument was a gesture of unity toward the South dating back to 1914. 200 Confederate soldiers are buried around the monument.

Tom Lutey

The Bark and the Byte

It wasn’t long after the 2022 crypto crash that U.S. Senator Jon Tester summed up the digital currency without government oversight or Treasury Department backing as follows:

“It didn't pass my smell test. I couldn't find anyone who could explain to me what was there other than synthetics that mean nothing,” Tester said on Meet the Press on December 11, 2022. The cryptocurrency had started the year on a high but ended 2022 at a quarter of its January value.

“And the problem is that if we regulate it — and I pointed this out to some of the regulators here a week or two ago — if we regulate it, it could give people the opportunity to believe it's real,” Tester said. “I'm not a regulator and I'm not a financial person who does regulation, but I don't see any reason why this stuff should exist.”

The crypto lobby, still desperate for the legitimacy it deserves from regulation, is now hitting back at doubters in Congress. As Bloomberg reported last week, the big crypto players have raised $160 million to target vulnerable lawmakers. Tester, one of the most senior Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, is one potential target. Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is another.

Federal election records show that the crypto action committee Fairshake spent $10 million to oppose Democratic Rep. Katie Porter's Senate candidacy in California.

Tester's recent voting record on cryptocurrency has been favorable for the industry. In May, Tester joined Republicans, including Senator Steve Daines of Montana, in defeating a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recommendation that recommended banks record customer crypto assets as liabilities and emphasized the need to disclose the boom-bust risk associated with the value of cryptocurrencies.

As Bloomberg reports, crypto PACs conduct their business in dollars rather than cryptocurrency.

Tom Lutey

In numbers

Number of Facebook ads targeting Montana residents and aimed at recruiting pro-Trump third-party candidates for Montana's congressional election. Source: Facebook Ad Library

To the background

The Billings Gazette reported on the backlash to Rep. Rosendale's vote against the federal Juneteenth holiday.

The Montana Legislature honored civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a state holiday in 1991. Here's what was said during debate on the bill.

Salon reported that Helena's Confederate monument is the only one west of the Rocky Mountains.

*Some links may require a subscription. Subscribe!

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *