The House voted Thursday to refer legislation banning the Confederate flag image from the Capitol to a committee, effectively punting the issue.
The dramatic vote was forced by Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Sunday shows - Democrats' spending plan in the spotlight Pelosi won't say if she'll run for reelection in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.), who was eager to put a spotlight on the issue after House GOP leaders pulled a separate bill from the floor after an intraparty fight over the flag.
Pelosi's resolution would have forced Mississippi's state flag, which includes the Confederate flag, to be removed from the House side of the Capitol.
After Pelosi offered the resolution, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) immediately moved to refer the measure to the House Administration Committee for further review.
Democrats shouted their disapproval to drown out all other sound in the House chamber.
“Vote! Vote! Vote!” they chanted.
The House backed McCarthy, voting 238-176 to refer the measure in a largely party-line vote.
Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) was the only Republican to side with Democrats on the Confederate flag. Rep. Mia Love (Utah), the only female black Republican in Congress, briefly voted "present" before changing her vote in favor of referral in the final moments of the roll call.
Earlier on Thursday, House GOP leaders yanked an Interior Department spending bill from the floor because of a separate fight over allowing graves in federal cemeteries to be decorated with the Confederate flag.
The House on Tuesday voted to ban such displays, but members of the GOP conference complained after the voice vote.
Late Wednesday, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) offered an amendment to undo the voice vote and to continue the practice of flying the Confederate flag at certain federal cemeteries.
That move triggered intense opposition from Democrats, who marched to the floor to denounce the Republican move.
The political timing helped Democrats. South Carolina's House early Thursday voted to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds in response to the killing last month of nine African-Americans at an historic South Carolina church — allegedly by a white gunman motivated by racism.
Pelosi's resolution was meant to capitalize on those developments.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE's (R-Ohio) office denounced the move as a stunt.
"The Speaker offered a thoughtful and responsible way to address this issue, and Pelosi responded with a cheap political stunt," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the sole African-American member of the Mississippi delegation, offered a nearly identical resolution to Pelosi's last month, days after the shooting in Charleston, S.C. McCarthy used the same move to block Thompson's measure.