WASHINGTON -- It is time for the U.S. to “put away” the Confederate battle flag, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday, as a fight over the symbol reached fever pitch on Capitol Hill.
The House had planned to vote Thursday on an amendment to an Interior Department spending bill that would have reversed previously passed measures banning the display of the Confederate flag on graves on federal land and the sale of the flag by the National Park Service. House GOP leadership pulled the spending bill from the floor, however, amid an escalating fight surrounding the Confederate flag language.
Pelosi scolded Republicans for scheduling a vote on the amendment on the same day that marks the 147th anniversary of the 14th amendment, which “granted equal protection for all.”
“Today, the same day appallingly, Republicans will cast a vote on an amendment in support of the Confederate battle flag,” she said.
The vote would have put House lawmakers on the record on the issue for the first time since June 17, when nine people were killed in a shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“After Charleston, after so many decades of this flag serving as a banner of oppression, hate and segregation, it’s long past the time to put away the Confederate battle flag,” Pelosi said.
On Tuesday, the House passed two amendments related to the flag by voice vote. One prohibited people from placing the flag on gravesites on federal land, and the other banned the National Park Service from selling Confederate flag merchandise in bookstores and gift shops.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) proposed an amendment Wednesday night to walk both of these rules back, reverting to the previous National Park Service policy of allowing people to display Confederate flags on graves on Confederate Memorial Day and remove them shortly after, and allowing the continued sale and display of the flag in shops, as long as it was in a “historical or educational context.”
In a statement on Thursday, Calvert expressed regret over his decision to offer the amendment.
“The amendment offered last night to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill was brought to me by Leadership at the request of some southern Members of the Republican Caucus,” Calvert said in a statement.
Calvert added that he “wholeheartedly” supports current National Park Service policy that prohibits Confederate flag display.
“Looking back, I regret not conferring with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially my Ranking Member Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), prior to offering the Leadership's amendment and fully explaining its intent given the strong feelings Members of the House feel regarding this important and sensitive issue,” Calvert said.
The scuffle in the House came just hours after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.