Confederate flag debate reaches Congress

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
The Evolution of the Confederate Flag

A growing backlash in Southern states against flying the Confederate battle flag spread to the U.S. Congress on Thursday when Democratic lawmakers aimed to remove the banner from parts of the Capitol, but it quickly ran into opposition in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi sought House approval of a resolution requiring the removal of state flags containing any portion of the Civil-War era Confederate battle flag from the House side of the U.S. Capitol.

The flag is a source of pride for many in the South and a remembrance of its soldiers killed 150 years ago but others see it as a symbol of oppression and of a dark chapter when 11 rebelling Confederate states fought to keep blacks enslaved.

The issue has taken center stage after a 21-year-old white man allegedly shot nine black worshippers to death during Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week. The first of the funerals for the victims was held on Thursday.

The suspect, Dylann Roof, had posed with a Confederate battle flag in photos posted on a website that also displayed a racist manifesto. He has been charged with nine counts of murder and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Confederate flags around the U.S.

12 PHOTOS
Confederate flags currently around US
See Gallery
Confederate flag debate reaches Congress
WASHINGTON, DC- JUNE 21: Confederate flag covers a window of a store in a small town in Georgia. The Confederate flag (aka the Rebel Flag) can be seen in plain view in almost any part of the United States although sightings are more common in the South. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- JUNE 21: A confederate flag reflected in the window of a gift shop that sells them in Seligman, Arizona. The Confederate flag (aka the Rebel Flag) can be seen in plain view in almost any part of the United States although sightings are more common in the South. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- JUNE 21: The South has more than its share of public reminders that the area is religious and tends to be conservative. Confederate flags in yards and on vehicles are common sights in the area. This truck was seen in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Confederate flag (aka the Rebel Flag) can be seen in plain view in almost any part of the United States although sightings are more common in the South. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- JUNE 21: The entrance to the Redneck Yacht Club in Yulee, Florida.The Confederate flag (aka the Rebel Flag) can be seen in plain view in almost any part of the United States although sightings are more common in the South. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Small Confederate flags are displayed on a shelf at Arkansas Flag and Banner in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Major retailers including Amazon, Sears, eBay and Etsy and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are halting sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Confederate flag-themed stickers are displayed at Arkansas Flag and Banner in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Major retailers including Amazon, Sears, eBay and Etsy and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are halting sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Confederate flag themed stickers are displayed at Arkansas Flag and Banner in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Major retailers including Amazon, Sears, eBay and Etsy and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are halting sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
The Mississippi flag hangs, with the other state flags, in the subway between the U.S. Capitol and Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. In the wake of a massacre at a black church in Charleston, S.C., a bipartisan mix of officials across the country is calling for the removal of Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy. Leaders of the Republican-controlled state of Mississippi are divided on whether to alter the state's flag, a corner of which is made up of the Confederate battle flag. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Kerry McCoy, owner of Arkansas Flag and Banner in Little Rock, Ark., describes the demand for Confederate flag merchandise Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Major retailers are halting sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE, 22: The sun sets on the Confederate flag located at The Confederate Memorial on the grounds of the state capital in Columbia, SC on Monday, June 22, 2015 with the citys Main Street seen in the background. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that the Confederate flag near the state Capitol should be moved, reversing an earlier position she had held and adding a powerful voice to the growing chorus of calls for the flags removal. (Photo by Brett Flashnick/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Graphic shows states where efforts are underway to remove Confederate symbols; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

RELATED COVERAGE
› National parks pull Confederate flag items from all gift shops

House members representing states with the Confederate battle flag image on their state flags still would be allowed to display the banners at their offices under Thompson's plan.

But Republicans, who control the House, repelled the move. The chamber in a mostly partisan 240-184 vote sent the legislation to a committee to mull.

"They (Republicans) have ground it to a halt," Trey Baker, counsel for Thompson, said of the House vote. Baker said some tunnels in the Capitol basement and other areas have collections of state flags, which were the target of Thompson's legislation.

Since the attack, some Southern state governors, including in Alabama and South Carolina, have voiced opposition to government buildings in their states flying the banner.

Also on Thursday, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown introduced legislation punishing states that issue specialty automobile license plates bearing the Confederate flag.

Brown's bill would reduce federal funding for those states' transportation programs.

"States that want to allow drivers to continue flaunting this symbol of racism and violence on government-issued license plates should realize that continuing to do so would jeopardize a portion of their federal transportation funds," the Ohio senator said.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners