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Panel Eyes Debate Over Confederate Symbols in Capitol

Lawmakers could debate displaying Confederate imagery on the Hill, such as that contained in Mississippi's flag, seen hanging here in the Senate Subway. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Could the House Administration Committee actually take up a resolution to take down the Mississippi state flag?  

The panel's chairwoman, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., is still noncommittal on whether she'll hold hearings or markups on a pair of measures that would bar Confederate imagery on House grounds — including the official Mississippi banner, with its Confederate flag inset, that hangs with 49 other state flags in the tunnel of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

But Miller on Tuesday suggested she was open to discussion, penning a letter to the committee's three Democrats asking for suggestions on who might be good to testify on the matter. "It would be helpful if you could expand on your suggestions regarding specific individuals, perhaps even scholars, the Committee should hear from during its deliberation on these resolutions," Miller wrote, in her letter obtained by CQ Roll Call, to ranking member Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., and California Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Juan Vargas.  

Brady, Lofgren and Vargas wrote to Miller nearly two weeks ago urging swift consideration of the resolutions, both of which were offered on the House floor via privileged motions and deferred to the committee of jurisdiction as a way of stalling the sensitive issue in the wake of the racially motivated shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., last month.  

Democrats have signaled flexibility about how to proceed, proposing the panel seek advice and input from Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, members of the Mississippi delegation (Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., already sits on the committee) and even the House superintendent.  

The House Administration Committee's Democratic staff director, Jamie Fleet, said in a statement to CQ Roll Call the only satisfactory response Miller could give at this point would be immediate action.  

"Committee Democrats are ready to consider these resolutions or would be eager to proceed with any of these other options we suggest in our July 9th letter," Fleet wrote in an email. "There are no excuses for further delay, we should act immediately."  

Miller does suggest the time frame for bringing the resolutions to the top of the panel's schedule might not come until early next year — if at all.  

"In addition to hearing from our Mississippi colleagues in the House and Senate, I would also like to hear from the elected leaders at Mississippi's state level. The Mississippi legislature is scheduled to reconvene in January 2016, and state lawmakers have said they plan to address the issue at that time," she wrote in her letter.  

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.  

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