The U.S. House on Thursday passed an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds to fly Confederate flags in cemeteries run by the Department for Veteran Affairs Thursday morning.
The amendment was tacked onto a 2017 bill for the funding of VA and military construction projects. It passed 265 to 159 with one abstention.
Though the bill prevents cemeteries from flying the flag over graves, families would still be able to place smaller confederate flags on graves for two days a year: Confederate Memorial Day and Memorial Day.
House Democrats have been pressuring Republicans to take a stance on the use of confederate flags since the issue was raised last summer following the fatal shooting of nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina last June. The shooter had posed in photos with the flag.
The shooting triggered nationwide protests over the use of the confederate flag, particularly by the government, and resulted in many government-run properties – including the South Carolina statehouse – removing the flags from their premises.
California Democrat Jared Huffman wrote the amendment, saying the flag represents "racism, slavery and division."
"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 asked the House during a floor debate Wednesday night.
Huffman introduced a similar amendment to the Interior Department spending bill in the midst of the protests last year. It did not pass and ended up derailing the spending bill process due to Republican pushback.
Republicans shot down another amendment late Wednesday night to prevent the Confederate flag from flying at the Citadel military college, two miles from the Charleston church where the mass shooting took place.
When signed into law, the bill will apply to 131 national cemeteries run by the VA.
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News Huffman said that while the approval of the amendment "represents progress," the fact that two thirds of the House Republican Caucus did not vote for the amendment was "shameful."
Why would anyone in Congress – let alone a majority of the governing party – still condone displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?
Symbols like the Confederate battle flag have meaning. They are not just neutral historical symbols of pride, they represent slavery, war, lynchings, and tragedy. To continue to allow national policy condoning the display of the Confederate battle flag on federal property would be wrong and disrespectful to our past. Even General Robert E. Lee recognized that symbols of the Confederacy are symbols of treason—which is why he asked that they not appear in his funeral.
I am grateful that a majority of the House agreed today to be at least as forward-looking as Robert E. Lee was in 1869. Let's continue to move in the direction of reconciliation, unity, and justice.
The bill will move onto the senate, though a timeline for when it will be considered is unknown at this time, a spokesperson for Huffman told BuzzFeed News.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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