House Votes to Ban Confederate Flag at National Cemeteries

Confederate flags fly over the graves of Confederate soldiers burried in Magnolia Cemetery on July 14, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
John Moore/Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan tells his Republican party members they’d better get used to “taking tough votes,” such as one to ban the Confederate flag at historic cemeteries controlled by the federal government.

In a roll-call vote, the House voted 265 to 159 to block descendants of Confederate veterans from flying the historic banner over mass graves even on the days when flags have been permitted in the past.

Democrats hailed the move as a strike against “racism, slavery and division, as Ryan warned opponents that they are just going to have to “take it” when votes don’t go their way.

Speaker Ryan seemed to insist that the issue wasn’t important enough for Republicans to fight for.

“People are going to have to take tough votes,” Ryan said at a press conference. He went on to say that the issue wasn’t as important as his budget plan saying “the last thing we should do is derail our own appropriations process” by getting too contentious over banning the historic symbol at national cemeteries.

The amendment, introduced on Wednesday night by Rep. Jared Huffma (D-CA), aimed to ban the flag from being flown on flag poles at federally controlled cemeteries. Families would still be allowed to place miniature flags on individual graves.

“Over 150 years ago, slavery was abolished. Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?” Huffman said as he introduced the measure. Huffman failed to get a similar measure passed last year.

Georgia Representative Sanford Bishop was the only Democrat to vote no on the bill. However, 84 Republicans joined the Democrats to ban the Confederate flag.

According to The Hill some Republicans were incensed by the amendment.

A staffer for Georgia Republican Lynn Westmoreland sent out an email blasting the amendment as something ISIS would do.

“You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda? ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL. I urge you to vote NO,” Westmoreland’s legislative director, Pete Sanborn, said in an email.

Sanborn reportedly signed the email, “Yours in freedom from the PC police.”

Westmoreland’s office distanced the congressman from the email.

The amendment comes a month after the Republican chairman of the House Administration Committee removed all state flags from a connecting tunnel between the Capitol and one of its office complexes. The flags were all removed because several official state flags of southern states contain a portion of the Confederate emblem.

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