A week after Army officials announced they would not ban Confederate flags from service installations, a House panel approved plans to prohibit the symbol at all military locations.
On Wednesday, as part of the House Armed Services Committee’s debate over the annual defense authorization bill, lawmakers passed without objection language that would “prohibit the public display of the Confederate battle flag at all Department of Defense property.”
The proposal, introduced by Iraq War veteran Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., includes exceptions for museum exhibits, state-approved license plates and grave sites of Confederate soldiers.
“We certainly have some ideas on the best ways to do this, whether its the symbology of certain things or taking a look at what the names of certain posts should be,” said Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff.
But the ban would encompass military work spaces, break rooms, living quarters, bumper stickers and personal apparel. Individuals could face punishment for disobeying the order.
The move comes amid debate over public debate over lingering symbols from the Confederacy, and whether their continued use represents racial intolerance or historic respect.
In the last month, both the Navy and Marine Corps have banned all public displays of the Confederate battle flag, saying the move was made to “ensure unit cohesion, preserve good order and discipline, and uphold the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
Officials at U.S. Forces Korea followed suit a few days later. Commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams said in a statement that even though “some might view it as a symbol of regional pride, many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of hate, bigotry, treason and a devaluation of humanity … we cannot have that division among us.”
Army officials said they are reviewing the issue, but have not yet moved to fully ban the symbol. Air Force officials have not made any changes on the issue in recent weeks.
If the new congressional proposal becomes law, it would force those services and all Defense Department personnel to dump the symbol.
Proposals would make extremist activity a military crime, create DOD oversight office for racial issues
Wednesday's defense authorization bill debate in the House will feature several proposals aimed at diversity and discrimination in the ranks.
But the authorization bill still faces a long legislative road before it is finalized. The flag provision must survive upcoming bill negotiations with Senate leaders in coming weeks, and be approved by both the full House and Senate before heading to the president to be signed into law.
On Wednesday, Trump threatened to veto the authorization bill — which contains hundreds of provisions on military pay, equipment purchase priorities and department reforms — if lawmakers included language mandating changing the names of military bases honoring Confederate leaders, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas.
Senate lawmakers included the name change proposal in their early draft of the legislation, but are expected to debate the idea on the full chamber floor in coming days. House Armed Services Committee members were expected to debate that idea later on Wednesday.