South Carolina House approves bill removing Confederate flag

South Carolina House approves bill removing Confederate flag

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - House members returned after an almost two-hour recess for caucus meetings in an effort to find a way out from under a glut of over 60 amendments that slowed debate on a bill that would remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds and place it in the Confederate Relic Room at the State Museum.

The bill, which fully passed the Senate earlier in the week without any amendments, is in the House on second reading. During this time, House members can propose amendments of their own to be added to the bill.

At last check, more than 60 amendments were filed to the bill. At least one House member, Rep. Mike Pitts, proposed 26 amendments before removing most of them. However, 23 amendments were quickly added to the bill. Most of those amendments ask to remove other individual monuments from the State House grounds.

During second reading, the amendment's creator and any other House member can speak about the amendments for 20 minutes a piece.

Pitts said he could use the amendments to bring debate on the bill to a "grinding halt."

"It doesn't take votes to bring it to a grinding halt, it takes supporters to bring it to a grinding halt, which means people standing in there talking about the issue, on and on and on," Pitts said.

Mobile users, tap here to view Pitts' amendments.

However, Pitts said he was willing to remove the flag, but wants something else in its place.

"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."

Pitts' proposal to redesign the fence around the flagpole where the rebel banner flies. The redesign would honor Stand Watie, a leader of the Cherokee nation who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederacy. It was defeated on a 90-29 vote. There were six more amendments on the desk after more than two dozen were withdrawn.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford is looking to get a clean bill through the Lower Chamber in honor of Sen. Clementa Pinckney, whose death in a racially-charged shooting in Charleston sparked renewed debate on the flag.

"We want to honor the legacy of our fallen comrade and have a clean bill," Rutherford said.

Rutherford said that most of the lawmakers have been in agreement regardless of what aisle they're seated on.

"I can tell you that a number of Democrats and Republicans are on the same page," Rutherford said. "There are obviously some outliers -- we have 124 members -- each one has the opportunity to have their say and we're going to allow them to do that. What we will have is a good debate. We look forward to that and we look forward to talking about the flag. "

Compromise or no compromise, the bill still must receive a two-thirds majority in the House on second and third reading. If the bill passes the House with amendments, it immediately heads back to the Senate. The Senate would then have to give approval to those changes, but if they don't, then it heads back to the House once again.

If the bill passes as-is, the bill could be on Gov. Nikki Haley's desk by Thursday afternoon.

Lawmakers say they are ready for a long day, but over two-thirds of representatives say they support the bill as-is.

A series of amendments by Rep. Mike Pitts to take down each individual monument at the South Carolina Capitol have been ruled out of order by House Speaker Jay Lucas.

Lucas said the only matters that could be taken up have to deal directly with the Confederate flag that flies beside a monument to Confederate soldiers on the front lawn of the Statehouse.

Pitts was asking for a vote to get rid of statues honoring the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, soldiers from the Spanish-American War, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton and the memorial to African-Americans built as part of the 2000 compromise that took the Confederate flag off the Statehouse dome.

"I'm starting to know how Lee felt at Appomattox," Pitts said, referring to the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army at the end of the Civil War.

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