House GOP Seeks To Turn Back Time On Confederate Flag

House GOP Seeks To Turn Back Time On Confederate Flag
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WASHINGTON -- House Republicans want to turn back the clock and void measures passed earlier this week that restrict the display of the Confederate flag on federal land.

On Tuesday night, the House passed two measures by voice vote that would stop the display of Confederate flags on gravesites on federal land, and make permanent the National Park Service's policy to pull Confederate flag merchandise from its stores in the aftermath of shootings last month at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thursday's vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) could change all of that. It will be the first time since the killing of nine people in the Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church that Congress is put on the record on the issue of the flag. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, posted images online of himself posing with the Confederate symbol, sparking debate across the country and forcing a number of GOP presidential contenders into corners.

Calvert offered his amendment late Wednesday night, as the debate over the 2016 spending bill for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency wound to a close.

The new legislation would support the National Park Service policy instituted after the shootings, which requested that all federal sites remove merchandise showing the flag from bookstores and gift shops. But the measure would scale back Rep. Jared Huffman's (D-Calif.) amendment passed Tuesday to make the policy permanent for National Park Service contracts.

Calvert's measure would also reverse a separate provision by Huffman that bars the display of Confederate flags on graves on federal land. Instead, Calvert wants to revert to the current policy, which allows people to display of the flag on graves on Confederate Memorial Day and remove them shortly after.

After Calvert's move to set up a vote on his amendment Wednesday night, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, expressed outrage on the floor.

"Just yesterday this House passed amendment after amendment supporting the removal of the symbol of racism from our national parks, which are visited every day by Americans and foreign visitors of every race," McCollum said. Calvert did not debate McCollum Wednesday as she railed against the amendment.

In a statement later, McCollum added that "for House Republicans, it appears the cost of getting the votes to pass this terrible Interior-Environment Appropriations bill is to literally wrap themselves in this banner of racism."

Ranking member on Appropriations, Rep. Nita Lowey, chimed in as well, accusing Republicans of "shamefully" fighting the "emerging national consensus that government must not countenance such a symbol of hatred and intolerance."

The House vote will come hours after the South Carolina legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the Confederate flag hangs from the flagpole on top of the Capitol building. It flies from a nearby flagpole on a memorial.

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