South Carolina House Approves Removal Of Confederate Flag
After a debate that was more contentious than what had occurred in the State Senate, the South Carolina House has voted to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol in Columbia:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Confederate battle flag that has flown at the South Carolina State House for more than 50 years will soon be gone after lawmakers capped a tension-filled session early on Thursday and voted to remove it from the grounds of the State Capitol.
The final vote in the State House of Representatives, 94 to 20, was well above the two-thirds majority that was required to move the bill toward the desk of Gov. Nikki R. Haley, a Republican who called for the flag to come down after last month’s massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
“It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state,” Ms. Haley said in a statement after the vote, which she watched from her wing of offices just below the House chamber.
A spokesman for Ms. Haley said the governor would “move quickly” after formally receiving the bill. Once she signs the measure into law, the state has 24 hours to take down the flag, which will be moved to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, near the Capitol.
Lawmakers were by turns elated and stunned by the outcome, which came after hours of debate on amendments that could have extended talk about the flag deeper into July. Representative David J. Mack III, a Democrat, had warned late Wednesday that lawmakers were dawdling to such an extent that the flag could still be flying on July 18, the day the Ku Klux Klan is scheduled to stage a protest here.
“To have this resolved tonight the way it was was very exciting,” Mr. Mack said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; there’s a lot of feelings on both sides as it relates to the flag. I’m just very happy with the outcome.”
But the church shooting — in which nine people, including a state senator, were killed in what the authorities have called a hate crime — loomed over the proceedings. The man charged in the killings, Dylann Roof, 21, had been photographed before the attack with the Confederate flag.
“It’s unfortunate that such a tragic event was required to bring about change, but in the end, if any good came of it, it’s that we put a contentious issue behind us,” said Representative James H. Merrill, a Republican.
The final vote came after the flag’s opponents defeated a series of amendments intended to derail the proposal. At one point on Wednesday night, Representative Jenny Anderson Horne, a Republican, tearfully pleaded with her colleagues to advance the measure without amendment.
“The people of Charleston deserve swift and immediate removal of that flag from these grounds,” Ms. Horne said. “I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful.”
When one amendment appeared close to receiving enough support to pass, which would have protracted the legislative process and defied Ms. Haley’s wishes, lawmakers reached a late-night agreement that allowed the bill to receive not only preliminary approval, but also a final vote just a few minutes later.
The bill now moves to the desk of Governor Haley, will obviously sign it into law forthwith. After it’s signed, the new law gives the Governor twenty-four hours to remove the flag and transfer it to the state museum. This means that, by the end of the week, the Confederate flag will most likely be down in Columbia. It’s long, long overdue.