Palmetto Sunrise: Senate to take final vote on the Confederate Flag

The Confederate battle flag flies outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, S.C. Within days of the Charleston massacre, support for the flag fell away, with calls from across the state to remove it from the State House. (Travis Dove/The New York Times)

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Senators are expected to take a historic vote this morning that could lead to the furling of the Statehouse’s Confederate battle flag permanently.

The bill cleared its first hurdle Monday on a 37-3 vote. A two-thirds vote is needed today to give it final approval, which would send the bill to the House of Representatives.

But before the vote took place, the nation watched as Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, gave an impassioned speech from the well, asking lawmakers to further extend the special session to include a debate on the recent legalization of same-sex marriages nationwide.

The General Assembly’s regular session ended June 4. Lawmakers have been working off a resolution that called them back for this special session, but it limits the topics they can discuss.

In his speech, Bright suggested having the state “get out of the business of marriage” if necessary, because it cannot succumb to “what is being done.”

“We can rally together and talk about a flag all we want, but the devil has taken control of this land and we’re not stopping him,” Bright said. “It is time for the church to rise up. It is time for the state of South Carolina to rise up. This nation was funded under Judeo-Christian principles and they are under assault by men in black robes who are not elected by you.”

Three defeated amendments to the Confederate Flag bill and the speeches of several senators, who took to the well to express their feelings on the banner, also delayed the vote, keeping flag opponents on their toes.

Among those who spoke was Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis, who said that it was colleague’s description (Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins) of what it felt like to walk into the Senate chambers for the first time in 1994 and find the battle flag hanging over the dais that gave him pause.

“In abstract sense, I had always understood that the Confederate battle flag had been appropriated by hate groups,” said Davis after the vote. “Hearing from somebody who you’re close to and hearing that very personal story, it makes the conception a reality. And really I think forces you to examine a little more fully what at an appropriate response would be.”

Charleston Republican Sen. Chip Campsen said he was moved by the forgiveness the families of the nine killed at Emanuel AME on June 17. From the floor, Campsen said he regretted Sen. Clementa Pinckney was among those killed and could not be present to see his parishioners’ response, because their reaction “is a reflection of him.”

“If the family members of the victims of the Mother Emanuel shootings can forgive their loved ones’ murderer, in the name of peace and charity, we can take down a banner that is causing concern for a significant percentage of our citizens,” said Campsen after the vote.

Best case scenario for what’s next: The Senate will give third reading to the bill today, sending it to the House of Representatives later in the day. The House would give it first reading, and lawmakers will attempt to bypass the committee process by pulling the bill straight to the floor. House members would then likely debate and take a vote on the bill on Wednesday. By Thursday, the House would give it the final vote. If the bill does not get amended, it would be ratified and sent to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk. Haley could potentially sign the bill as early as Friday.

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In other news:

Religious leaders honor grace shown after church shooting (The Post and Courier)

Four candidates declare so far for Pinckney’s vacant Senate seat (Bluffton Today)

Graffiti painted on Tillman Hall (The Greenville News)

House overturns Haley’s Clemson veto, others (The Associated Press)

Clinton to sit with CNN for first national interview (The Associated Press)

Huckabee joining US Sen. Tim Scott’s town hall (The Associated Press)