The Republican-controlled House has scrapped plans to vote on approving the display of the Confederate flag at historic federal cemeteries in the wake of protests from Democrats.
Officials said Thursday the legislation that included the issue would be pulled from the floor for the time being. The decision came as Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to approve the display of a painful reminder of a racist past.
It also coincided with a vote in the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate Flag from a pole outside the state capitol.
The decision reversed a House plan for an on-the-record vote on whether Confederate flags can briefly decorate rebel graves at Park Service-run cemeteries and if their sale should be banned in national park gift shops.
The intended vote was announced after Southern lawmakers complained they were taken by surprise two nights ago when the House voted — without a recorded tally — to ban the display of Confederate flags at federal cemeteries and to strengthen Park Service policy against its sale in gift shops.
The earlier voice vote came on an amendment to a measure funding the National Park Service, which maintains 14 national cemeteries, most of which contain graves of Civil War soldiers.
Park Service policy is to briefly permit display of the flag in cemeteries located in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day, which appears to limit its display to the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.
"Congress cannot simply re-write history and strip the Confederate flag from existence," said Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Mississippi. "Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics."
Momentum against the flag's display on public land skyrocketed after last month's slaughter at nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Democrats were outraged about the GOP maneuvering, which was orchestrated by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-California, on Wednesday night.
"We should make sure that we uphold what this House stood for yesterday, which is to say no to racism, which is to say no to hate speech," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota.
© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.