House Republicans waded into the Confederate flag debate as some lawmakers objected to a trio of Democratic amendments in the annual Interior-Environment spending bill that would restrict the use of Confederate flags on federal land.
But the objections weren’t voiced when the amendments were approved by voice vote earlier this week.
An amendment from Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) moved to undo two of the amendments, which would block gift shops that sell Confederate flag imagery from receiving National Park Service contracts and would block funding for decoration of graves in federal cemeteries with Confederate flags.
Democrats were livid. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), ranking member on the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said “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.”
“Look, our members rightly tried to address the concerns yesterday in a way that was consistent with how the Obama administration has handled this issue. And I, frankly, supported the goal of trying to work with all the parties to address their concerns, but listen,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters today.
“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 about the Confederate flag. I actually think it’s time for some adults here in the Congress to actually sit down and have a conversation about how to address this issue,” he said.
“I do not want this to become some political football; it should not. And so I would expect that you’ll see some conversations in the coming days.”
Asked if he thinks Confederate flags should be at federal cemeteries, Boehner replied, “No.”
Boehner said he wants “members on both sides of the aisle to sit down and let’s have a conversation about how to address what, frankly, has become a very thorny issue… I have some ideas, and when I firm them up in my head, I’ll let you know.”
The bill was pulled from the House floor today “because I believe that members on both sides of the aisle want to deal with it in a responsible way.”
Boehner vowed the bill will sit on the sidelines “until we can come to some resolution on this.”
But the White House still fired at House Republicans over the amendment.
“These are the same House Republicans who voted for a party leader who once described himself as ‘David Duke without the baggage.’ These are the same congressional Republicans who have declined to criticize the race-baiting rhetoric of a leading Republican presidential candidate,” press secretary Josh Earnest said. “That’s to say nothing of the Senate Republican who has saluted that candidate. So when you hear me say that congressional Republicans have an agenda that is out of step with the vast majority of Americans, this record, at least in part, is what I’m referring to.”
The “David Duke” comment is a reference to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.); the Senate Republican reference is to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) defense of Donald Trump.