Even as the South Carolina state legislature decided to pull the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, Republicans in Washington made a move to guarantee the sale and display of the flag, a move immediately decried by Connecticut’s Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., yesterday proposed what is now known as the “Calvert Amendment” to H.R. 2282, an Interior spending bill.
The amendment, which would have allowed the flag to be flown at the gravesites of Confederate soldiers, among other places, was proposed in response to Democratic amendments to the same bill that would have prohibited Confederate flags from being displayed at federal cemeteries.
The back-and-forth amendments over the Confederate flag prompted Republican House leaders to pull the appropriations bill from consideration for the time being.
Esty, among other Democrats in Washington, spoke out against the Republican move to promote the symbol of the Confederacy, noting how soon the move came after a rally held to support passage of a measure mandating background checks for gun purchases.
On Wednesday, a rally was held in favor of H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, which Esty said she “proudly introduced with my colleagues in March, would close the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to purchase guns without a background check.
“However, just one day after these leaders and mourning families from Charleston were at the Capitol demanding change, House Republicans demand a vote to preserve display and sale of the Confederate flag,” she said. “This tactic is shameful and insensitive. This rebel flag carries a strong offensive association that is harmful and hurtful to many Americans. House Republicans should allow us to move on as a nation and remove this negative association from federal land.”
Conversely, Republicans in favor of flying the Confederate flag, spoke about the underhanded tactics Democrats used in their attempt to ban it.
“I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate,” Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., said in a prepared statement, obtained by Politico. “Congress cannot simply rewrite history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics. I will fight to ensure that this language is not included in any bill signed into law.”
Ultimately, the spending bill was scrubbed and Calvert attempted to pull his amendment back, claiming coercion by members of his party from Southern states, as Talking Points Memo reported.
“The amendment offered last night to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill was brought to me by Leadership at the request of some southern members of the Republican Caucus,” he said. “Looking back, I regret not conferring with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”
The South Carolina state legislature agreed Thursday to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds, a move for which Connecticut’s Rep. John Larson, D-2nd District, took to Twitter to express his support.
“I commend South Carolina for doing the right thing & voting to remove the Confederate Flag. It’s time to #TakeItDown,” he said.
Jordan Fenster is an award-winning freelance journalist. He lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.