Newspaper article Roll Call

Uproar over Confederate Flag Blocks Interior-Environment Bill

Newspaper article Roll Call

Uproar over Confederate Flag Blocks Interior-Environment Bill

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Uproar Over Confederate Flag Blocks Interior-Environment Bill

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* By Lauren Gardner and Tamar Hallerman

* Roll Call Staff

* July 9, 2015, 1:41 p.m.

Republican leaders abruptly pulled the fiscal 2016 Interior- Environment spending bill from the floor Thursday in a highly embarrassing about-face after Democrats and moderate Republicans revolted against a planned vote to allow Confederate flag imagery to be displayed on cemeteries on federal land.

The spending measure was already controversial, and GOP leaders initially agreed to the Confederate flag amendment vote to guarantee enough support from Republicans for passage, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said.

Several sources tracking the issue attributed the request to Southern Republicans.

"This was an attempt to codify the Obama Administration's own directive to our national cemeteries and it is unfortunate that it has devolved into a political battle," a GOP leadership aide said in an email. "It is our hope that we can have a thoughtful discussion on this matter that is free of politics."

Opponents said the decision to move ahead on the flag vote-- first reported by CQ--appeared tone deaf, coming just as members of the South Carolina legislature were agreeing to take the Confederate battle flag down from their own Capitol grounds, following the racially motivated murders last month of nine black parishioners in Charleston.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest ripped congressional Republicans, saying "a sizable number of House Republicans are eager to protect the status of the Confederate flag" in national parks.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters that the issue had become a "political football" and needs to be discussed further. But asked if he would support the display of Confederate flags at cemeteries on federal land, he said, "No."

Some news reports earlier Thursday indicated as many as 100 House Republicans said they would vote against the bill without the flag amendment. …

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