A protest against the Confederate flag at the State House in South Carolina. The flag is now coming down after action by lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley (R). Photo: Malike Brazile

Republicans pull Interior funding bill over Confederate flag debate

Republican leaders in the House pulled H.R.2822, the fiscal year 2016 Interior appropriations bill, due to a dispute over the Confederate flag.

Lawmakers were headed to a final vote on the package, which funds the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, today. But controversy grew over an amendment that would have allowed the divisive symbol to be displayed at some federal cemeteries and national parks.

The language was proposed by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California), the chairman of the Interior appropriations subcommittee, on behalf of Republicans from Southern states. They were apparently upset because Democrats added a different provision to the bill that removes the flag from federal sites and gift shops.

The dispute prompted Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to halt consideration. “That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we come to some resolution,” the House speaker told reporters, according to The Hill.

Boehner is now calling for a review of the Confederate flag at the U.S. Capitol. He plans to appoint a bipartisan group of lawmakers to look at the symbol that has been subject to considerable debate following a racially-motivated massacre at an African American church in South Carolina. The state displayed the flag at its capitol but is taking it down in response to the tragedy.

The withdrawal of H.R.2282 came as the White House renewed objections to the package. A letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan criticized the funding levels for Indian programs because they were lower than the ones requested by President Barack Obama

"The bill cuts funding for American Indian and Alaska Native health care programs and facilities of the Indian Health Service by more than $320 million, or nearly 7 percent, below the president's budget," Donovan wrote to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee today. "This would result in inadequate funding for the provision of health care to a population that faces much greater health needs, on average, than the general population.

"In addition, the bill cuts funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs by 8 percent compared to the president's budget, which would limit DOI's ability to support priorities in Indian Country, such as programs for Native youth," Donovan continued. "This includes a 40 percent cut to education construction and a 9 percent cut to education programs as compared to the President's Budget, severely inhibiting reforms to the Bureau of Indian Education and preventing critical updates to school infrastructure."

Get the Story:
Boehner wants review of Confederate symbols in U.S. Capitol (The Washington Post 7/9)
Republicans Back Down on Confederate Flags at U.S. Cemeteries (The New York Times 7/9)
House cancels vote amid fight over Confederate flag (The Hill 7/9)
House Pulls Spending Bill Amid Confederate Flag Debate (Roll Call 7/9)

House Appropriations Committee Documents:
Press Release | Summary of H.R.2822 | Text of H.R.2822 as Introduced | Report Accompanying H.R.2822

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