House GOP unveils Confederate flag display compromise

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The House Administration Committee on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited compromise over displaying the Confederate symbol in the Capitol complex.

Until last year, an underground subway tunnel connecting the Capitol and the Rayburn House Office Building was decorated with the flags of every U.S. state, territory and district. That included Mississippi’s state flag, which contains the Confederate battle flag in the upper left corner.

All the flags were quietly removed for a construction project — and the timing followed national controversy over the display of Confederate symbols following a racially charged shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., last June.

{mosads}House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) said Thursday the tunnel would instead be adorned with reproductions of the commemorative quarter coins depicting the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

“Given the controversy surrounding confederate imagery, I decided to install a new display. I am well aware of how many Americans negatively view the confederate flag, and, personally, I am very sympathetic to these views. However, I also believe that it is not the business of the federal government to dictate what flag each state flies,” Miller said in a statement.

In the days after the shooting, House Democrats repeatedly forced procedural votes on measures to ban the display of Confederate imagery in the Capitol. All of those attempts were defeated along party lines.

A handful of Southern states, including South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia, removed Confederate imagery from their statehouse grounds and banned it from license plates. And multiple retailers, including Walmart and Amazon, announced after the shooting that they would stop selling the Confederate flag.

Mississippi’s GOP-controlled legislature has not been able to reach a consensus on changing the state’s flag, the only one in the nation to still bear the Confederate image.

Around the same time last summer, House Republicans ultimately abandoned work on the regular appropriations process after the passage of an amendment prohibiting the Confederate image in certain national cemeteries derailed the entire Interior Department spending bill.

Some GOP lawmakers, primarily from Southern states, objected to the amendment’s inclusion after it passed quietly by voice vote and threatened to oppose the entire measure.

The compromise announced on Thursday won’t prevent Mississippi lawmakers from displaying the state flag outside their congressional offices. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the sole black member of the Mississippi delegation, does not have the state flag outside of his office — a break from typical practice.

Thompson introduced a resolution last year that would have banned the Confederate image completely from the House side of the Capitol complex, including flags outside congressional offices.

While Thompson acknowledged Thursday’s announcement as a “first step,” he called on his state’s legislature to consider the House GOP’s latest move.

“I can only hope that this understanding will somehow reach the hearts and minds of the elected officials in the State of Mississippi and they will follow suit and rid our state of this ultimate vestige of slavery and bigotry,” Thompson said in a statement.


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