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House Votes to Restrict Confederate Flag Imagery

In an otherwise contentious debate Tuesday night over the fiscal 2016 Interior-Environment spending bill (HR 2822), the House adopted without opposition a trio of amendments that would restrict Confederate flag imagery on federal land.

The measures marked the House’s first move in a national debate over the Confederate flag’s place in American society, sparked by the deadly mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17.

Three amendments tacked onto the appropriations bill by House Democrats would bar the National Park Service from using funds to contract with gift shops that sell merchandise with Confederate flag imagery, to decorate a grave in a federal cemetery with the flag, or to purchase or display a Confederate flag on park property except to provide historical context.

Current NPS policy allows Confederate battle flags to temporarily adorn the graves of Civil War veterans on federal property in states that celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, a holiday in some Southern states.

Rep. Jared Huffman of California. who offered two of the measures, said the flag “represents racism, slavery and division.”

The amendments by Huffman and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York were adopted by voice vote with no members speaking in opposition.

“While in certain and very limited instances it may be appropriate in national parks to display an image of the Confederate flag in its historical context, a general display or sale of Confederate flags is inappropriate and divisive,” said Betty McCollum of Minnesota, ranking Democrat on the Interior-Environment appropriations subcommittee.

Several major retailers including Wal-Mart, Amazon and Sears have moved to stop selling merchandise with Confederate flag imagery, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis asked park concessioners last month to voluntarily stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.

Work was continuing Wednesday on the spending bill.

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