Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn is bringing the ongoing debate over the display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina back to the attention of his colleagues in Congress.
The only Democrat in the Palmetto State delegation stated his support of a proposed amendment to the annual defense policy bill on Wednesday that would bar federal funds from going to any senior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at institutions where the Confederate flag is being displayed.
"The flag, which never was the official flag of the Confederacy, is a symbol of hate, racial oppression, and resistance to the rule of law," Clyburn said in a statement on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, this objectionable banner currently flies at The Citadel in my congressional district.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
The amendment is being proposed by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., at the marathon markup of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act by the House Armed Services Committee, which often lasts until the early morning hours.
The Citadel, a public military college in Charleston, S.C., has displayed the Confederate Naval Jack in its Summerall Chapel since 1939.
"It has been used for over a century as a symbol of southern defiance and white supremacy; it was viewed as such by the perpetrator of the horrific shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 of last year," Clyburn said in the statement.
Last summer he was joined by Republican colleagues in the state's delegation and Gov. Nikki Haley in backing the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse following the shooting of nine black congregants at Emanuel AME Church. The shooter, Dylan Roof, was a white supremacist who posted photos of himself with the Confederate symbol online.
Clyburn also took a shot at S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson for barring the flag's removal by citing the Heritage Act, which was passed by the S.C. General Assembly in 2000. In 2014, Wilson released an opinion stating that the Heritage Act bars the Citadel from removing the flag from a prominent place on campus.
"Americans’ tax dollars should be directed to institutions free of symbols of hatred," Clyburn said, noting that as a gift from an alumnus, it shouldn't be covered by the "ill-advised Act."
"The law protects this flag as it does other memorials of other wars,” Wilson's opinion says.
The Citadel Board of Visitors voted 9-3 last summer to remove the Confederate banner from the chapel, but acknowledged it would require an amendment to the Heritage Act by the state legislature.
Current students at the Citadel and other institutions would be allowed to keep their ROTC scholarships and complete the programs by being exempt from the proposed amendement, Clyburn said.
This is not the first time that the Citadel’s display of the Confederate banner has been in the national spotlight. In December, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the removal of the flag after an incident where photos posted online showed cadets wearing white pillowcases that resembled members of the Klu Klux Klan.
"Symbols of hate create more hate. It's time for the Confederate flag to come down at The Citadel," she tweeted.
If the House committee decides to adopt the amendment, it would still need to make it through the negotiations on the final defense bill between the House and Senate next month.
Among the maze of more than 100 amendments being considered by the committee on Wednesday, Clyburn said the one proposed by Smith was a simple choice.
"Any vote to block or weaken the amendment is a vote to support the continued display of the Confederate battle flag at The Citadel and across the country,” he said.