WASHINGTON – Chaos engulfed the U.S. Capitol on Thursday as House Republicans and Democrats clashed over where the Confederate battle flag can and cannot be displayed.
In a late night maneuver on Wednesday, Republicans aimed to push language into a funding bill that would allow the display and sale of Confederate battle flag imagery at cemeteries on federal land.
A vote on the matter was scheduled for late Thursday afternoon. However, House Democrats cried foul, and by late morning House Republican leaders pulled the entire funding bill.
Even so, Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, continued to inject chaos into the day’s House floor proceedings. They succeeded in tying up the floor on the issue, scuttling the funding bill and diverting the trajectory of the day's news amid negotiations with Iran and a pending highway bill.
“I’m glad we’re taking the stand that we are. I think it’s really important,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth “I believe that it’s long overdue, and I believe it’s time we finally move on.”
Democrats escalated the issue into the afternoon by revisiting a resolution to ban the display of the Confederate rebel flag at the nation’s Capitol. The target of that legislation was likely the Mississippi state flag.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California successfully moved for that resolution to be sent to the House Administration Committee. Democrats howled in reaction – a rare tone for House decorum.
“It made people very upset and troubled,” Veasey said, adding that the debate was striking in the context that, only hours before, the South Carolina legislature voted to take down the Confederate flag from its state Capitol grounds.
U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, said Thursday evening that while he believed Democrats were "sincere" in their calls for the removal of the flag, he suspected that it was all a concerted strategy to upend the funding process and give the executive branch more power over how money is spent.
“They were very sincere in what they were trying to accomplish, [but] it hadn’t been the flag issue. … They’ve been trying to blow the appropriations bills up, every one, as we go along,” he said.
“When we were in the minority, we did the same thing,” Marchant added.
Democrats also aimed to exact a political price from Republicans on the issue.
The House Democratic campaign arm blasted U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, an African-American, for choosing “procedural delays and parliamentary games, ensuring the confederate battle flag remains on display.”
Hurd declined to comment on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s statement, saying he wanted to see it firsthand before commenting.