Update, 7:30 p.m.: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House. The flag will be taken down at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. Here’s more on the scene of the signing from the New York Times:
Ms. Haley, a Republican, signed the bill in a capitol building surrounded by cheering lawmakers. She used nine pens to be given to the families of the nine victims of the Charleston church shooting on June 17, describing them as “nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina’s history.” She also praised lawmakers, including members of the House of Representatives, who engaged in a 13-hour legislative argument over the flag, voting at 1 a.m. on Thursday to remove it.
Original Post, 8:37 a.m.: Just after 1:00 a.m. Thursday, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted 94-20 to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Civil War memorial on the state capitol grounds. The bill passed unaltered from the version approved by the South Carolina Senate earlier in the week and will go directly to Gov. Nikki Haley, who is expected to sign it on Thursday.
The bill calls for the Confederate flag, which has attracted renewed controversy as a result of the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church and revelations about the accused shooter’s views on white supremacy, to be moved to the Confederate Relics room in the capitol within 24 hours of Haley’s signature.
The vote came at the end of more than 13 hours of debate that saw Republican lawmakers attempt to add dozens of amendments—including measures to replace the Confederate flag with the South Carolina flag at the Civil War memorial and to establish an exhibit for the Confederate flag to reside in—while taking to the House floor to defend the symbol they claimed had been “hijacked” and “abducted” by racists. The local NBC affiliate has more:
Rep. Mike Pitts, who remembered playing with a Confederate ancestor’s cavalry sword while growing up, said for him the flag is a reminder of how dirt-poor Southern farmers fought Yankees not because they hated blacks or supported slavery, but because their land was being invaded.
Those soldiers should be respected just as soldiers who fought in the Middle East or Afghanistan, he said, recalling his own military service. Pitts then turned to a lawmaker he called a dear friend, recalling how his black colleague nearly died in Vietnam.
“I’m willing to move that flag at some point if it causes a twinge in the hearts of my friends,” Pitts said. “But I’ll ask for something in return.”
The adoption of any amendments by the House would have meant delays, possibly for weeks, while a conference committee worked out the differences between the House and Senate versions. Pitts, who put forth more than 20 amendments, said he’d taken out his hearing aids when Republican Gov. Nikki Haley addressed a caucus meeting to ask for swift passage of the bill and he warned Wednesday night that “I have a lot to say and a lot of amendments. We could be here awhile.”
The stalling tactics were too much for Rep. Jenny Horne, a Republican from the Charleston area, who asked to be recognized to comment on one of the amendments clogging the chamber. Horne spoke about attending the funeral of Clementa Pinckney, the state senator killed along with eight others at Emanuel AME Church, as she tearfully denounced her party’s attempts to use amendments to delay the removal of the flag.
I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday. And if any of you vote to amend, you are ensuring that this flag will fly beyond Friday. And for the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury and I will not be a part of it.
Horne expressed exasperation with arguments that the flag should be retained in the war memorial as a symbol of the state’s “heritage.”
I’m sorry. I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage. I am a lifelong South Carolinian. I am a descendent of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter. This is not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have commanded that this symbol of hate come off of the state house grounds…
We need to follow the example of the Senate. Remove this flag and do it today, because this issue is not getting any better with age.
After the lengthy debate, the last of the Republican amendments was finally withdrawn by its author, allowing the final round of voting to wrap up at 1:11 a.m. Following the vote, Gov. Haley released a statement praising lawmakers for having “served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity… 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.”