House rejects effort to bar Confederate flag from the Citadel

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Debate over flying the Confederate flag has returned to the House floor nearly a year after a racially motivated shooting in Charleston, S.C.

House Democrats late Wednesday night used a procedural motion for the annual defense policy bill to attempt to add an amendment that would target the display of the Confederate flag at the Citadel military college in Charleston.

Their measure, known as a motion to recommit, would also strip a Republican-authored provision in the defense authorization bill that Democrats warned would allow discrimination against the LGBT community.

{mosads}It failed along party lines by a vote of 181-243.

Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was denied a vote on his submitted Confederate flag amendment. In an emotional House floor speech, Clyburn noted that the Citadel is only about 2 miles from where last year’s shooting took place at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, leaving nine dead.

“This objectionable banner, which has never been the official flag of the Confederacy, is a symbol of hate, racial oppression, resistance to the rule of law and white supremacy,” Clyburn said.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is openly gay, blasted the inclusion of language in this year’s defense bill that says religious corporations, associations, educational institutions and societies that receive federal contracts can’t be discriminated against on the basis of religion. Opponents of the provision warn that it could open the door to discrimination against the LGBT community.

House GOP leaders late Tuesday night denied a bipartisan amendment from Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) that would have stripped the language out of the bill.

“This is not some procedural vote to be waved away,” Maloney said. “This is about whether we will affirm equal rights or rationalize discrimination.”

“We are told that we are to make America great again,” Maloney said in reference to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign slogan as the Democratic side of the chamber erupted into boisterous shouting and applause. “Well, you cannot make America great by making America hate!”

Democrats made clear they were trying to tie House Republicans to Trump.

“Whatever their empty talk about being shocked by Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric, House Republicans’ votes utterly expose the reality of their own discriminatory agenda,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) maintained that it was imperative to pass the defense authorization without directly addressing the Confederate flag or LGBT issues.

“I realize that if one wants to oppose this bill, there’s lots of reasons to do that,” Thornberry said.

The underlying defense authorization ultimately passed later Wednesday night by a vote of 277-147.

The procedural motion likely won’t be the last time House Democrats try to force a vote related to the Confederate flag. The office of Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) has said it plans to offer amendments on the issue during consideration of appropriations bills, where members can offer an unlimited number of amendments.

The first opportunity will come later Wednesday night as the House takes up its first 2017 spending bill to fund the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and military construction projects.

House GOP leaders ultimately halted consideration of appropriations bills last summer after Democrats, including Huffman, passed amendments limiting the display of the Confederate flag in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting. Some GOP lawmakers, primarily from Southern states, later balked at the amendments’ inclusion.

Tags Confederate flag Defense Discrimination Donald Trump LGBT rights religious liberty

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