House Votes to Restrict Confederate Flag in National Cemeteries

Cristina Marcos, The Hill, May 19, 2016

The House approved a Democratic proposal on Thursday to limit the display of the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.

The amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and military construction projects passed 265-159. A total of 158 Republicans opposed the amendment from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), while 84 Republicans joined all but one Democrat in supporting it.

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), a centrist who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the only Democrat to vote against the amendment. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voted “present.”

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Shortly after midnight on Thursday, Huffman offered his amendment to prohibit the large-scale display of the Confederate flag in cemeteries run by the VA, such as flying the banner over mass graves. It would, however, still allow families to place small Confederate flags on individual graves on Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.

“Over 150 years ago, slavery was abolished. Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?” Huffman asked while unveiling his amendment.

No one spoke in opposition to Huffman’s amendment during floor debate.

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Huffman offered a similar amendment last year to an Interior Department spending bill that would limit the display of the Confederate flag in certain national cemeteries. It encountered no opposition during late-night floor debate and passed without fanfare by voice vote.

But some GOP lawmakers, primarily from Southern states, learned about the amendment the next day after it had it already passed. The vote count for the underlying Interior Department spending bill subsequently became shaky as those Republicans demanded the amendment be stripped from the legislation.

House GOP leaders ultimately decided to scrap the bill altogether rather than stage a vote to protect flying the Confederate flag on the same day that the South Carolina House voted to remove the banner from its state Capitol grounds. They further decided to stop bringing appropriations bills to the floor entirely since Democrats threatened to continue offering amendments regarding the Confederate flag.

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