House may reverse course on Confederate flag

House may reverse course on Confederate flag
© Getty Images

The House on Thursday will vote on a Republican amendment to a spending bill that would undo new restrictions members approved only this week on the display of the Confederate flag on federal land. 

The amendment to the House's Interior and Environment spending bill would allow for the display of Confederate flags at national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service (NPS) even though members voted to ban the practice earlier this week. It would counteract another amendment to the same bill blocking the service from selling Confederate flag memorabilia in gift shops in the future. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.) offered the amendment in the closing minutes of floor debate on the spending bill Wednesday night. He made only a token statement in support of the amendment before setting up a roll-call vote on it for Thursday. 

“This amendment will codify existing National Park Service policy and directives with regard to the decoration of cemeteries and concession sales,” he said. “I urge adoption of my amendment.”

The amendment comes one day after the House voted, unanimously and with little debate, on a series of amendments to diminish the flag’s presence at NPS-managed cemeteries and stores. A vote on Calvert's amendment will effectively force members to go on the record for or against the display of the flag on federal land.

Debate over the flag, both on Capitol Hill and around the country, has intensified in the aftermath of a shooting last month at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine people.

Photos showing the alleged shooter posing with the flag surfaced after he was arrested.  

On Tuesday, the House adopted an amendment ending a policy that allowed for small Confederate flags to be displayed on Civil War veterans’ graves on a designated Confederate Memorial Day. The House also adopted an amendment codifying a new NPS policy that prohibits new contracts to sell items featuring the flag in gift shops.

Both amendments passed on voice votes and with little to no debate, but they would be undone by Calvert's amendment.

On the House floor, Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumMinnesota lieutenant governor, Native Americans to protest Washington Redskins 'racist' name DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief Trump impeachment calls snowball, putting pressure on Pelosi MORE (D-Minn.), the Democrat leading debate on the underlying bill, was visibly upset about the amendment and its late introduction on Wednesday night. 

She said she was “actually quite surprised that we find ourselves here tonight attempting to overturn the National Park Service” amendments adopted by the House just a day earlier. 

“The general display or sale of Confederate flag items is inappropriate and divisive and I support limiting their use,” she said. 

“So I strongly oppose this amendment, which is an attempt to negate amendments that were approved yesterday without any opposition to limit the displaying of the Confederate flag. ... We should uphold what this House did yesterday, which is to say no to racism, which is to say no to hate speech.”