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House Republicans Block Banning Confederate Flag from Veterans' Cemeteries

House Republicans Block Banning Confederate Flag from Veterans' Cemeteries

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Rep. Jared Huffman called the decision an affront to victims of gun violence everywhere.

The U.S. House of Representatives has blocked a ban on flying Confederate flags at national VA cemeteries.

The legislation was attached to a May bill on funding for the Veterans Administration, and the measure originally passed the GOP-controlled House by a vote of 239 to 171. Both Rep. Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy supported the flag ban, as Politico reports.

But since that vote, Ryan has decided to curtail what legislation can be attached to spending bills. The measure was removed Thursday morning.

The ban was supported by Democrats, but most right-wing legislators were reportedly opposed to it. "Of the eight House Republicans Ryan appointed to the conference committee that ultimately stripped the measure, four had voted against the ban on the floor," Politico said.

The ban was initally proposed following a mass shooting on a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. last year, which took the lives of nine people. On June 17, 2015, an armed white supremacist opened fire on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where congregants had gathered for a Bible study.

Rep. Jared Huffman called the decision an affront to those who died in the Charleston attack.

"It is shameful that Republicans would once again seek to allow Confederate battle flags, a historic symbol of hate, to be flown over VA cemeteries," Huffman said in a statement. "Republicans are showing where their allegiance lies -- and it is not with the victims of gun violence."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also criticized the move in a press release.

"In the middle of the night, with next to no notice, Speaker Ryan and House Republicans removed a bipartisan ban on allowing the Confederate Battle Flag to fly over veterans," said the DCCC. "Paul Ryan has promised 'a new day' in the House and 'a better way' from Republicans, but what he's given us is the shameful undoing of the will of a bipartisan majority and allowing a symbol of hate and fear to fly over the graves of our veterans."

The timing of these statements couldn't be more crucial.

This week, Democratic leaders of the House staged a day-long sit-in to protest Congressional inaction on gun control following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the deadliest in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed when a lone shooter targeted the Florida gay bar.

Prior to the tragedy in Orlando, Huffman had been extremely critical of the message the Confederate flag sends to an America grappling with violent and deadly hate. "Over 150 years ago, slavery was abolished," Huffman told reporters. "Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?"

Following the 2015 shooting, states like South Carolina and Alabama removed the Stars and Bars from their state capitols, while retailers including Walmart, Sears, KMart, eBay, etsy, Spencer Gifts stopped selling the Confederate emblem.

Huffman's ban, though, would not have removed the flag from VA cemeteries entirely.

While "large-scale" banners would have been nixed from being hung at gravesites, the legislation would have allowed smaller displays -- like miniature flags -- would have been allowed on occasions like Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

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