Update, July 7, 12:25 p.m.: The final vote by South Carolina Senators counted 36-3, in favor of removing the flag. The issue will next be debated by the House as early as Wednesday.
Update, July 6, 4:35 p.m.: The South Carolina Senate voted 37-3 to remove the flag. The final vote will be Tuesday, before the House takes up the issue.
Original post, July 6, 2:27 p.m.: South Carolina lawmakers returned to Columbia on Monday to begin debating the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house. Senate Bill 897 would require the transfer of the flag to “the Confederate relic room for appropriate display.”
MSNBC reports, “If the bill isn’t filibustered and passes with a two-thirds majority, meaning 30 or more Senators, it moves on to the House, where it will also need a two-thirds vote (75 votes or more) to move on to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk.”
Controversy over the flag re-emerged following the June 17th massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The alleged suspect is a white supremacist who had taken photos with Confederate paraphernalia. Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic immediately urged for its removal and soon after activist Bree Newsome was arrested for scaling the pole to remove the flag. The lawmakers’ debate comes two days after hundreds protested the flag at an NAACP rally.
While some politicians are hesitant to remove the flag, pointing to the flag as a symbol of state pride, the position for removal has gained momentum and support. The numbers for this week’s votes are promising for flag opponents. South Carolina newspaper, The Post and Courier, conducted a poll of legislators and found “at least 33 senators and 83 House members agreed with [Haley], reaching the threshold of a two-thirds vote needed under the law to alter the flag’s position.” Notably, Paul Thurmond, the son of infamous segregationist Strom Thurmond, announced he would support the bill.
The flag has a complicated history of appearing on South Carolina state grounds, and could not even be taken down to half-mast after the killings of nine people at Emanuel AME Church. A statute in 2000 mandated “the Confederate flag abides by its own rules. While governors—as well as the president—can usually order that all state and national flags within their jurisdiction be flown at half-staff, this one is exempt.”
The debate and votes are expected to wrap up on Thursday. If all goes well, the flag will end up in the relic room where it belongs.