Confederate flag debate makes way to Congress

Republicans divided on the issue

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was only a matter of time before the Confederate flag debate hit Congress.

A House vote originally scheduled Thursday afternoon would have challenged a recently passed amendment to do away with all sales of Confederate memorabilia and displays within national parks and cemeteries, but it was pulled due to a lack of votes.

Led by Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi, the vote aimed to reverse the previous provision, which was added to the Interior Department spending bill. Palazzo and his supporters said they would vote against the Interior Department spending bill if it continued to include the ban.

“I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate,” Palazzo said in a statement. “Congress cannot simply rewrite history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics.”

But many Republicans -- not to mention an outburst from Democrats -- did not support the congressional effort to re-instate the flag in national cemeteries, including Speaker of the House John Boehner who told reporters Thursday at a news conference, "I think it's time for some adults here in Congress to sit down and have conversation about how to address this issue. I do not want this to become a political football."

Sidestepping the House vote issue, Boehner called for the creation of an informal bipartisan group to review the issue of Confederate symbols inside the U.S. Capitol building and other issues that may come up in other annual spending bills.

“Listen, we all witnessed the people of Charleston and the people of South Carolina come together in a respectful way to deal with, frankly, what was a very horrific crime and a difficult issue with the Confederate flag,” Boehner said.

The House debacle comes at the same time that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, plans to sign legislation removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state’s Capitol building.

But a Gallup poll released Thursday found that support for the Confederate flag continues to be strong among conservatives. About two-thirds of Republicans favor the display of the symbol. In fact, the poll found that support for the flag among Republicans has been on the rise in the past two decades. Currently 67 percent of Republicans believe it’s OK for Southern states to fly the flag compared to 55 percent who said so in 2000.

Conversely, Democrats' views on the flag are increasingly negative. Only 32 percent now believe the flag constitutes as a legitimate symbol of Southern pride. The overall national support for the symbol hovers at 54 percent.

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