In July, 2014 protesters gathered to block DHS busses carrying Central American women and children in Murrieta, CA. It was ugly, and unnecessary, and gave the town a dismal national reputation. [HuffPo] Murrieta is in the 42nd Congressional District, with a 46.6% white population, 36.2% Hispanic, 5.1% African American, and 8.8% Asian American. The district has been consistently Republican since 2003. So, why review this information today? Because the Representative from this California district, Ken Calvert, has raised the bloody flag in the halls of Congress.
“The amendment to the House’s Interior and Environment spending bill would allow for the display of Confederate flags at national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service (NPS) even though members voted to ban the practice earlier this week. It would counteract another amendment to the same bill blocking the service from selling Confederate flag memorabilia in gift shops in the future.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) offered the amendment in the closing minutes of floor debate on the spending bill Wednesday night. He made only a token statement in support of the amendment before setting up a roll call vote on it for Thursday.” [The Hill]
Even though Representative Calvert’s amendment hit the floor during the waning hours of the Congressional day, it drew fire overnight when House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) commented:
Hoyer called the amendment, introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) Wednesday night on a spending bill, “appalling.” He challenged House Republicans to vote against it and preserve amendments banning Confederate flag sales at national parks and displays at national cemeteries.
“That racist, divisive flag of slavery, segregation, and secession is not an appropriate symbol to sell or fly in our national parks and cemeteries run by the National Park Service,” Hoyer said in a statement early Thursday. [The Hill]
Representative Hoyer wasn’t the only member of Congress appalled by the Calvert amendment. Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum retorted: “After the murder of nine black parishioners, I never thought that the U.S. House of Representatives would join those who would want to see this flag flown by passing an amendment to ensure” the continued flying of the Confederate flag, McCollum said.” [Roll Call]
Thus evaporated any remaining Democratic support for an otherwise unlikeable Department of Interior appropriations bill. Representative McCollum wasn’t alone; several other Democratic party Representatives took to the floor to lambaste the idea of voting on the Calvert amendment today, July 9, 2015. [The Hill]
Representative Calvert offered an explanation for his amendment, saying he had been asked by Representatives from southern states to introduce it, and there were Republican members of the House who would not support the Interior Department’s appropriation bill be cause of earlier language banning the CSA battle flag in grounds under DoI administration. [The Hill]
And now we come to the totally predictable part of the story – encapsulated by the remarks of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters the spending bill had been pulled to avoid the issue from becoming a “political football.” “That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we come to some resolution,” he said.” [The Hill]
This, from the Speaker who said only days ago in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston Church massacre, that Congress would be “the adults in the room.”
So, we have yet another major piece of legislation sitting “in abeyance” while the House Republicans engage in their internecine battles over whether or not to allow the pennon of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and racism to flap on federal grounds. Additionally, it truly is remarkable that yet again House Republicans have slipped their own poison pill into what was one of their own bills.
This seems less like gridlock between two adversarial parties, and more like what happens when a single party with a majority in Congress cannot control its own caucus. The Democrats should be perfectly pleased that an appropriations bill which stripped the EPA of essential authority to regulate clean air and clean water is “in abeyance.” Republicans who wanted to dismantle the EPA’s authority to control pollution may be wondering how and why a California Representative could so easily thwart their plans with a truly insensitive and racially charged amendment on behalf of his southern brethren.
We may have to look no further than the angry faces of the anti-immigrant protesters in his district – Welcome Back to Murrieta?