The House approved a Democratic proposal on Thursday to limit the display of the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.
The amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and military construction projects passed 265-159. A total of 158 Republicans opposed the amendment from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), while 84 Republicans joined all but one Democrat in supporting it.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), a centrist who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the only Democrat to vote against the amendment. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voted “present.”
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed support for allowing the vote despite opposition from a majority of his conference.
“Last year it stopped the appropriations process in its tracks,” he told reporters at a Capitol news conference after the vote.
“What changed is we have to get through these things, and if we're going to have open rules and appropriations, which we have, which is regular order, people are going to have to take tough votes. And I think people are acknowledging this — this is the kind of conversation we've had all along with our members, which is tough votes happen in open rules.
“People have to get used to that fact. That's the way regular order works,” he added. “People realize the last thing we should do is derail our own appropriations process.”
Shortly after midnight on Thursday, Huffman offered his amendment to prohibit the large-scale display of the Confederate flag in cemeteries run by the VA, such as flying the banner over mass graves. It would, however, still allow families to place small Confederate flags on individual graves on Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.
Huffman offered a similar amendment last year to an Interior Department spending bill that would limit the display of the Confederate flag in certain national cemeteries. It encountered no opposition during late-night floor debate and passed without fanfare by voice vote.
But some GOP lawmakers, primarily from Southern states, learned about the amendment the next day after it had it already passed. The vote count for the underlying Interior Department spending bill subsequently became shaky as those Republicans demanded the amendment be stripped from the legislation.
House GOP leaders ultimately decided to scrap the bill altogether rather than stage a vote to protect flying the Confederate flag on the same day that the South Carolina House voted to remove the banner from its state Capitol grounds. They further decided to stop bringing appropriations bills to the floor entirely since Democrats threatened to continue offering amendments regarding the Confederate flag.
Democrats have the ability to force votes on the Confederate flag because House GOP leaders choose to consider individual appropriations bills under an unusually freewheeling process that allows members to offer unlimited numbers of amendments.
Republicans touted the use of the process as a return to regular order upon taking the majority in 2011. But it also makes it easier for the minority party to force politically risky votes that leadership may otherwise try to prevent.
Democrats have now forced two votes on the Confederate flag in less than 24 hours.
Republicans, led by “genius” Paul Ryan, have abdicated their control by allowing open rules and amendments. Does anyone think Democrats would allow this type of accommodation? And Ryan is not willing to show some character and challenge the Democrats who are determined to dishonor American war heroes and attempt to erase their history, all because they are offended by dead veterans. They have attempted the same type of bullying in the U.S. Capital, and in New Orleans where heroic war hero statues are located commemorating significant Confederate leaders.
Republicans continue to show that they are afraid of Democrats and the PC crowd and are willing to roll over almost any time that they encounter push back from the Left. We expect this type of nonsense from Democrats, who are determined to bring this nation to its knees. One would expect a more principled, adult response from Republicans, but surrender seems to be their default position. Perhaps the nation is truly lost since there no longer appears to be any real opposition to Leftist attacks on conservative values and principles.