On the same day that South Carolina passed a clear step to removing the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds, the U.S. House of Representatives approved several measures barring the flag's use on federal lands.
On Tuesday evening, the House approved an amendment to a spending bill that would prevent graves on federal lands from being decorated with the Confederate flag.
The amendment, from California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman, was intended to prevent local groups from decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers with the flag on federal sites, such as those on Civil War battlegrounds. In certain Southern states that recognize Confederate Memorial Day, the National Park Service will allow local groups to place the flags on graves, although official policy is to remove them as soon as possible.
The House passed another Huffman amendment that would bar the National Park Service from selling Confederate flag merchandise, affirming an NPS request that its stores remove items featuring the flag as a symbol, after the June 17 shooting that killed nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina.
A third amendment from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, would block funding for the purchase and display of the Confederate flag on National Park land unless it provides historical context, in line with NPS policy.
In a signal of how swiftly public sentiment has moved against the Confederate flag in the national debate following the shootings, nobody spoke in opposition to either of Huffman's amendments, which passed by voice vote.
"This House now has an opportunity to add its voice, by ending the promotion of the cruel, racist legacy of the Confederacy," Huffman said on the floor.
A week after the racially motivated shooting at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Park Service said it would remove Confederate flag memorabilia from its bookstores and gift shops. The ban only applied to stand-alone items; books and DVDs containing the flag would still be sold. The move followed similar actions by retailers such as eBay, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.
The amendments, however, may never become law. The underlying bill funding the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency is expected to pass the House on Wednesday, but faces a White House veto threat because it relies on sequester spending levels and contains riders that would block several aspects of President Obama's environmental agenda.
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