The Confederate battle flag will continue to fly at The Citadel for the time being, after the rejection of a defense budget amendment in the early morning hours on Thursday.
During the marathon 16-hour markup of the annual defense budget bill, the House Armed Services Committee rejected a measure championed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., that would have forced The Citadel to choose between displaying the flag and federal funding of its Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.
It is bizarre to allow the flag to fly above an academy when the military services do not allow the same flag to be displayed in servicemembers’ rooms.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.
“I am greatly disappointed that a majority of Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee have voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying in a place of worship at The Citadel,” Clyburn said in a statement after the effort failed. “Americans’ tax dollars should not be directed to institutions where it is flown.”
The amendment proposed by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would have barred the Defense Department from giving federal funds to ROTC programs at any institutions that fly the Confederate flag.
The Citadel, a public military college in Charleston, S.C., is the only place that fits that description. It has displayed the Confederate Naval Jack in its Summerall Chapel since 1939.
1939 The year the Confederate Naval Jack was hung in The Citadel's Summerall Chapel, a gift from an alumnus.
“It is not appropriate to fly [the flag] over institutions that train our next generation of military officers, and it is bizarre to allow the flag to fly above an academy when the military services do not allow the same flag to be displayed in servicemembers’ rooms,” Smith said. “They should have voted to take it down instead of dodging the issue.”
Last summer the flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse in the aftermath of the racially-motivated shooting of nine African-American parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white supremacist.
Although Clyburn isn’t on the committee that was marking up the bill, he released a statement Wednesday asking committee members to support it.
“[The flag] 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," he said in the statement.
There is nothing reverent or unifying about that banner. It should only be displayed in a museum.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was on Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify at a hearing about the potential transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the Naval Brig in Charleston, said the state did not need Congress to interfere in the controversial debate.
“They could very easily move the Confederate flag to the museum, which is right next door to where it’s being housed now,” Haley told reporters. “But they would have to do that through the same ways that we did it at the statehouse. As South Carolinians we handled that ourselves in South Carolina, so I don't think we need to go through a D.C. plan to do that, I think that's a matter of South Carolinians making that decision."
Haley said that the process should go through the state legislature, which would have to make an exception for the college due to a S.C. state law called the Heritage Act.
I don't think we need to go through a D.C. plan to do that, I think that's a matter of South Carolinians making that decision.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley
"What I told the cadets is that if this is a concern they need to contact their legislators, they would need to open the Heritage Act just for that specific facility and handle it accordingly, but right now we haven't seen any action," she said.
In order to avoid voting on the amendment, Republicans on the committee introduced and passed a modified measure. It allows the Confederate flag to keep being displayed at The Citadel even if its Board of Visitors votes to remove the flag, despite the fact that such a vote wouldn’t remove the banner due to the Heritage law.
Last summer the Citadel Board of Visitors voted 9-3 to remove the flag.
In a Winthrop University poll released on Thursday, 73 percent of African-Americans said the Confederate flag represents white supremacy and racial conflict, compared to 26 percent of whites who said the same. Fifty-seven percent of whites said the Confederate flag represents southern pride, compared to just 13 percent of blacks.
In his response to the amendment’s failure on Thursday, Clyburn said he wasn’t going to stop fighting the removal of the flag.
“In the coming weeks and months, I plan to give House Republicans additional opportunities to do the right thing,” he said.
ANDREA CWIEKA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.