Updated at 8:54 a.m. Jul 9th 2015
In a sudden late-night reversal Wednesday, House Republicans unexpectedly rallied to the defense of the Confederate flag. The surprise move came just one day after the House passed Democratic amendments to restrict the display of the flag on federal lands and to limit the sale of items with the notorious icon at national parks, Roll Call reported.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) announced the course change Wednesday evening, telling a nearly empty chamber that House Republicans had scheduled a vote for Thursday to undo the Democratic amendments, which were made to the Interior spending bill on Tuesday.
The move caught Democrats off guard. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) quickly opposed the new amendment and said on the House floor that she “cannot hide my surprise and my outrage,” according to Roll Call.
“After the murder of nine black parishioners, I never thought that the U.S. House of Representatives would join those who would want to see this flag flown by passing an amendment to ensure” the flag can be displayed, she said.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) called on lawmakers to “reject this disgraceful gambit,” according to Roll Call.
The original Democratic amendments restricting display of the flag apparently caught some Republican by surprise. The amendments, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), were adopted by a voice vote without vocal opposition. Despite the amendments’ quick passage on Tuesday, the vote left some House Republicans outraged. Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) protested the House vote on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
“I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate. Congress cannot simply re-write 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,” Palazzo said in a statement. “I will fight to ensure that this language is not included in any bill signed into law.”
The House will vote on the new GOP amendment before voting on final passage of the Interior spending bill on Thursday.
“This amendment will codify existing National Park Service policy and directives with regard to the decoration of cemeteries and concession stands,” Calvert said when he announced the amendment on the House floor, according to Roll Call.