House Votes to Ban Confederate Flags from Federal Cemeteries and National Park Stores, then Backtracks ... and Backtracks on the Backtrack

Friday, July 10, 2015
Rep. Ken Calvert

In response to the killing of nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the House of Representatives indicated it would join those who have come out against the use of the Confederate flag, long a symbol of bigotry in the eyes of African Americans and others.


House lawmakers earlier this week approved three proposals, two of which—sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California)—would ban the flags from federal cemeteries and from National Park stores. The amendments, to be attached to the fiscal 2016 Interior-Environment spending bill (HR 2822), were adopted on a voice vote, something the House uses on legislation that doesn’t stir objections.


But apparently some members of the House Republican Caucus objected to the anti-Confederate flag measures, prompting Representative Ken Calvert of California to put forth another amendment that would largely undo two of the other amendments.


Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), whose opposition to the flag-banning amendments helped fuel Calvert’s measure, said in a statement: “Congress cannot simply rewrite history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics. I will fight to ensure that this language is not included in any bill signed into law.”


Democrats, who sponsored the earlier amendments, reacted with dismay to Calvert’s attempt to rollback the changes.


Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) was “audibly shaken while speaking on the floor and said she ‘cannot hide my surprise and my outrage,’” according to Roll Call.


“After the murder of nine black parishioners, I never thought that the U.S. House of Representatives would join those who would want to see this flag flown by passing an amendment to ensure” the continued flying of the Confederate flag, McCollum said. “For House Republicans it appears the cost of getting the votes to pass this terrible Interior-Environment Appropriations bill is to literally wrap themselves in this banner of racism. This bill is already a polluter's dream, now the majority wants to make the bill truly toxic with this amendment."


Calvert’s amendment was scheduled for a vote on Thursday. But that very same day, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a measure to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, which had been overwhelmingly approved by the state legislature. Consequently, Southern Republicans in the U.S. House threatened to vote against the $30-billion spending bill if Calvert’s amendment was included. Republicans, fearing the political fallout of reversing the flag bans and likely failure to pass the spending bill, cancelled the vote.

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Republicans to Vote on Allowing Display of Confederate Flag (by Tamar Hallerman and Lauren Gardner, CQ Roll Call)

House GOP Takes Step Back On Confederate Flags (by Darren Goode, Politico)

Pelosi Ambushes GOP with Confederate Flag Resolution (by Christina Marcos, The Hill)

House Votes To Ban Sale Of Confederate Flag In Park Service Stores (by Christina Marcos, The Hill)

GOP Leaders Yank Bill after Confederate Flag Fracas (by Jake Sherman and Darren Goode, Politico)


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