- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The latest on the Confederate flag debate in the South Carolina (all times local):

1:40 a.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley says “it is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of” after the state House of Representatives approved a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds.

Haley said in a statement early Thursday that the measure “truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.”

Haley spearheaded the movement to take the flag down after nine black church members, including a state senator, were gunned down last month during Bible study in Charleston.

The bill calls for the flag to come down within 24 hours of her signature. It’s not clear exactly when she will sign it.


1 a.m.

The South Carolina House has approved taking down the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, a stunning reversal in a state that was the first to leave the Union in 1860 and raised the flag again at its Statehouse more than 50 years ago to protest the civil rights movement.

The move early Thursday came after more than 13 hours of at times contentious debate. It also came just weeks after the fatal shootings of nine black church members, including a state senator, at a Bible study in Charleston.

The House approved the Senate bill 93-27, and still has one more vote that appeared to be perfunctory since they had met two-thirds approval. The bill would then go to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who supports it.

It could come down within days.


12:35 a.m.

Just when it appeared the South Carolina House was ready to pass a bill removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, the debate came to a surprising halt.

On an amendment early Thursday, a 60-60 vote kept alive a proposal to raise the South Carolina state flag on the pole where the rebel banner now flies.

A number of members were stunned at the vote. The bill passed by the Senate called for the pole and flag to be removed, and Gov. Nikki Haley told Republicans in a closed door meeting Wednesday afternoon that was what she wanted.


11:45 p.m.

The South Carolina House has refused to adjourn after 12 hours of debate over removing the Confederate flag.

The chamber voted 111-3 to keep debating as the clock moved toward midnight.

As the hour grew later, things grew more contentious. There were votes on parliamentary procedures that usually go by without a hitch.

Votes in the House are recorded on a giant board, with members’ names turning green for “yes” and “red” for no. During one vote, a member asked for guidance for all the people in the back of the chamber. “If you vote green, what are you voting for?”


10:20 p.m.

Republicans seem to be inching closer to changing a bill that would remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds - a move that could delay any action for weeks or months.

The amendment would still take down the flag, but requires the state’s Confederate Relic Room to set up a display with the flag honoring Civil War soldiers.

Supporters of the amendment said it would barley delay removing the flag because the Senate could come back immediately and agree with the House. But senators pointed out Tuesday they weren’t going to rush back.

The final vote on the amendment has not happened.


8:15 p.m.

A Republican House member has made an emotional appeal to bring down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse, saying anything less is an insult to the family of a slain Charleston legislator and colleagues offended by the banner.

“For the widow of Sen. (Clementa) Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury, and I will not be a part of it,” said Rep. Jenny Horne, her voice shaking with tears and emotion. “If we amend this bill, we are telling the people of Charleston, we don’t care about you.”

After Horne’s comments, lawmakers essentially defeated an amendment to fly a different flag in place of the battle emblem.

Pinckney was among the nine black churchgoers killed during Bible study June 17. Horne represents a district near Charleston.


7:30 p.m.

An amendment to replace the Confederate battle flag outside South Carolina’s Statehouse with a white flag of surrender has been defeated.

House lawmakers tabled the proposal by Rep. Christopher Corley, a Republican, who suggested replacing the Confederate battle flag with a white flag.

The plain white flag, Corley said, would be symbolic of state Republicans’ apparent surrender on the issue.

“I don’t have a picture, but it would look like this,” Corley told the chamber, waving a small white flag from the House podium.


7 p.m.

Lawmakers who want to change a bill that would remove the Confederate flag and the pole it flies on from the South Carolina Capitol came the closest they have so far to passing an amendment.

The proposal would have flown the 1st South Carolina Volunteers regiment from the current pole. It is a blue flag similar to the state flag with its Palmetto tree and crescent moon but with a wreath around the tree. It was set aside on a 61-56 vote.

House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope said it was a good compromise for opponents of the Confederate flag.

“I’m willing to show some grace. I’m willing to work to make sure that banner comes down. What I’m asking is please, please, please, you guys show us some grace to the memory, to the heritage of the people of this state,” said Pope, who plans to run for governor in 2018.

Republican Rep. Chris Murphy, whose district is near the historic African-American church where nine people were killed, said he couldn’t understand how substituting one Civil War banner for another shows grace.

“I think it’s a slap in the face,” he said.


6:15 p.m.

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.


5:45 p.m.

Mississippi’s only black congressman is stepping up his effort to remove all images of the Confederate battle flag from the U.S. House chamber and House office buildings in Washington.

That includes the Mississippi state flag, which has featured the battle emblem since 1894.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson filed a resolution June 23 to remove Confederate images from Capitol spaces controlled by the House. He sent a letter to a committee chairman Wednesday, urging her to advance his proposal.

Thompson says the Confederate states were “treasonous” and tried to tear apart the nation to perpetuate slavery.

He does not fly the Mississippi flag in his offices.

Debate about Confederate symbols gained new traction after last month’s massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.


5:30 p.m.

An amendment that would have let voters decide on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol has been defeated.

The amendment saw the most debate of Wednesday’s session before it was set aside on a 71-48 vote. The popular vote would have been non-binding, meaning legislators wouldn’t have to heed to it.

Opponents of the idea said it was illegal in South Carolina and also unnecessary since voters sent their representatives to the Statehouse to vote on their behalf.

Supporters of the amendment said the people did not get a voice on the issue because the bill was not sent through a committee where public hearings could have been held. Several of them pointed out their emails, phone calls and letters have been heavily in support of the flag.

“I think it is difficult to deny the people a voice when they want one,” said Republican Rep. Christopher Corley.


4:30 p.m.

Republican House members said they spent some of their lunch break from the Confederate flag debate listening to an emotional plea from Gov. Nikki Haley.

The Republican governor asked them to pass the Senate bill that would remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.

It was the second closed-door meeting for GOP members on Wednesday. It came after three hours of debate.

Rep. Mike Pitts, who is offering the amendments and slowing down the debate, said he didn’t hear much of what the governor had to say.

“The governor came in and spoke. I was in the back of the room and took my hearing aids out,” Pitts said.


3:40 p.m.

A Republican Nevada Assemblywoman is defending the Confederate flag as a piece of American history.

Conservative Las Vegas lawmaker Michele Fiore sent a campaign email Wednesday discussing the ongoing debate about the flag at the South Carolina Statehouse.

Fiore said citizens need to remember both the good and the bad parts of the nation’s past because they shaped the country.

She also vowed to install a horn on her truck that sounds like the one in General Lee, a car in the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” that features a Confederate flag decal. Reruns of the show were pulled in the wake of the flag controversy.

Fiore didn’t immediately return a call seeking further comment.


2:55 p.m.

The South Carolina House is taking a lunch break, in part so Republicans can meet behind closed doors again to talk about whether to take down the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.

In three hours of debate, the House took up just four amendments, rejecting them all. One would have planted the state flower - yellow jasmine - in the place where the flag and flagpole now stand. Another would have put a case in front of the monument to Confederate soldiers with a display of historical flags.

Republicans quietly left to take their break, although a few were overheard talking about a meeting with Gov. Nikki Haley, who is urging them to adopt the Senate bill that would remove the flag within 24 hours of the governor signing it into law.

Democrats said they had nothing to discuss because they are united behind the Senate proposal.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said the length of the debate and its slow progress isn’t worrisome.

“A bill of this magnitude should take some time,” Rutherford said.

Debate is scheduled to start again at 3:30 p.m.


2:20 p.m.

Dozens of law enforcement officers are posted inside and outside the South Carolina Statehouse as House lawmakers debated the Confederate flag.

Uniformed officers from the State Law Enforcement Division stood inside the lobby space below the chamber where legislators discussed if the flag should be removed. Officers from the Columbia Police Department were also seen walking around the grounds.

Some protesters who support removing the flag waved signs at cars driving past the front side of the Statehouse, where the flag flies next to a monument to Confederate soldiers.

Unlike earlier in the week, no protesters who support the flag were visible.


2 p.m.

A South Carolina lawmaker who doesn’t support bringing down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds and moving it to a museum without some kind a replacement, has dominated the debate in the House.

Rep. Mike Pitts has been speaking Wednesday for more than an hour in 20-minute segments. The Republican has touched on a number of things not exactly related to the debate on the rebel banner. He has discussed using his hearing aids to ignore his wife, his duck hunting and people who run and workout on the Statehouse grounds.

“I do a lot of curls - with a fork,” Pitts said, making an exaggerated eating motion.

Later in the debate, Pitts talked about soldiers, and how female fighters might be better than male fighters. He suggested the meanest Army regiment in the world would have four female companies, sending each one out for a week at the front lines every month.

“If you timed that right, you certainly would have a fighting force I wouldn’t want to face,” Pitts said.

He then abruptly changed the topic. “I better stop on that one before I get too far,” Pitts said.


1:15 p.m.

State police say they are investigating a number of threats against South Carolina lawmakers debating whether the Confederate flag should stay on the Statehouse grounds.

Chief Mark Keel said Wednesday in a statement provided to The Associated Press that the State Law Enforcement Division is working with various other law enforcement agencies to investigate death threats against a number of legislators.

Keel said threats to kill or injure public officials or their relatives are not protected by free speech rights.

Keel said lawmakers on both sides of the issue had been threatened, but he did not specify which ones.

Earlier Wednesday, officials with the House Democratic caucus posted on Twitter a racially offensive and threatening letter allegedly sent to one of their members.


12:50 p.m.

The U.S. House has voted to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries in the Deep South.

The low-profile move came late Tuesday after a brief debate on a measure funding the National Park Service, which maintains 14 national cemeteries, most of which contain graves of Civil War soldiers.

The proposal by California Democrat Jared Huffman would block the Park Service from allowing private groups from decorating the graves of southern soldiers with Confederate flags in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. The cemeteries affected are the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.

Pressure has mounted to ban display of the flag on state and federal property in the wake of last month’s shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.


12:20 p.m.

The South Carolina House is hearing proposed amendments to the bill to remove the Confederate flag passed by the Senate.

The first amendment was Republican Rep. Mike 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 are six more amendments on the desk after more than two dozen were withdrawn.

Pitts said he is friends with many House members in both parties, and he hopes they can remain friends when the debate is over.

“Folks in Charleston, I feel your grief,” Pitts said.

Pitts’ other withdrawn amendments included removing all monuments on Statehouse grounds, having a popular vote on whether the Confederate flag should stay and requiring that the U.S. flag fly upside down above the Statehouse dome.


11:45 a.m.

The South Carolina House opened its session to debate the Confederate flag with a speech from the representative whose district included the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church where nine people were killed during Bible study.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard said he wanted the House to remember why they were there a month after their regular session was supposed to end.

“We cannot ever add to what was their sacrifice and their example. They gave their last level of devotion to their church and in doing so, stand as an example of Christian love,” Gilliard said.

Gilliard was surrounded by nearly three dozen lawmakers, most of them Democrats.

All House members gave Gilliard a standing ovation when he finished, and Speaker Jay Lucas asked for a moment of silence.

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