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House votes to limit Confederate flags in VA cemeteries

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The House on Thursday voted to block most displays of the Confederate battle flag at cemeteries run by the Veterans Administration, as 84 Republicans joined with all but one Democrat to push through a plan that had derailed federal budget work a year ago in the Congress.

“Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who stood on the floor after midnight on Wednesday night to offer his amendment.

“Symbols like the Confederate battle flag have meaning,” Huffman argued.

The plan still lets small flags be placed in those VA cemeteries on individual graves on two days each year – Memorial Day and what’s known as Confederate Memorial Day, which is observed at different times in a series of southern states.

The only Democrat not to vote with Huffman was Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, as the House approved the flag limits on a vote of 265-159; a clear majority of Republicans opposed the effort to limit the Confederate flag.

Democrats cheered as the vote was announced on the floor of the House.

It was the second time in recent days that Democrats had pushed a vote on the floor of the House in relation to the Confederate flag; earlier, Democrats used a procedural motion to demand that the flag be removed from the Citadel.

While that was rebuffed by Republicans, the cemetery effort was approved as part of a broader spending bill that covers the operations of the VA.

Last year, the success of a similar proposal by Huffman proved so immediately radioactive that Republican leaders yanked the VA spending bill off the floor, ending all work for the year on the major budget bills that must be passed by Congress.

The plan would still have to be approved by the Senate.

Democrats have made rumblings about using other spending bills to force votes related to the Confederate flag in this election year as well.

Unlike last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would not step in to prevent such votes.

“People are going to have to take tough votes,” Ryan told reporters when asked about the Confederate flag matter, as he said lawmakers need to understand that “tough votes happen.”

“That’s the way regular order works,” the Speaker said flatly, making it clear he would not allow individual issues to derail work on a dozen major spending bills this year.


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