The GOP-led House on Thursday morning voted to bar the Confederate battle flag from flying over some federal graveyards, with Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants joining Democrats to approve the measure despite most Republicans voting against it.
Lawmakers voted 265-159 on a Democratic amendment offered by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) that would bar the Civil War symbol from being flown at cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was the first time the House has cast a ballot on the divisive issue.
John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided to pull the entire Interior Department spending bill rather than litigating the matter in a roll call vote that could have been used by Democrats to accuse the GOP of supporting a racially divisive symbol.
Many of those same Southern Republicans opposed the amendment Thursday. But all three top Republicans, including Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise voted for the Democratic amendment. Ryan’s willingness to even bring the amendment up for a vote marked a sharp break with past leadership strategy, and suggests he plans to stick by his commitment to taking tough votes on spending bills where the rules give members wide latitude to offer amendments.