06/23/16 11:45 AM EDT

A measure to bar confederate flags from cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs was removed from legislation passed by the House early Thursday.

The flag ban was added to the VA funding bill HR 4974 in May by a vote of 265-159, with most Republicans voting against the ban. But Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both supported the measure. Ryan was commended for allowing a vote on the controversial measure, but has since limited what amendments can be offered on the floor.

In negotiations to reconcile the House funding measure with the Senate bill, the confederate flag provision was dropped. The bill passed the House 239-171.

Of the eight House Republicans Ryan appointed to the conference committee that ultimately stripped the measure, four had voted against the ban on the floor.

A GOP aide declined to comment on the internal deliberations that led to the removal of the ban.

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House drops Confederate Flag ban for veterans cemeteries


Congress finally decided not to ban our Flag in national cemeteries. So the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided on its own to ban the display of the Confederate Flag in cemeteries overseen by the agency.

In a letter to Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) this month, the VA said it will no longer allow the Confederate flag to fly on any flagpole in national cemeteries. However, groups will still be permitted to adorn individual graves with small Confederate flags on two days of the year: Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.

The VA said that after a yearlong review of its policies surrounding the flag's display in its cemeteries, it would change them in accordance with an amendment authored by Huffman that the House abandoned earlier this summer.

Huffman offered a similar amendment to an Interior Department spending bill that passed quietly by voice vote during late-night floor debate. But some GOP lawmakers, primarily from Southern states, learned about Huffman's amendment the next day after it had already passed and demanded it be stripped from the legislation.

Rather than stage a politically damaging vote showing their members in support of the Confederate flag, House GOP leaders opted to cancel consideration of the entire underlying spending bill.

Huffman then offered his amendment on the first spending bill to come up for a vote in the House this year. Speaker Ryan (R-Wis.) allowed a vote on Huffman's measure to go forward while the VA spending bill was being considered under a process allowing unlimited amendments.

While Huffman's amendment to a VA spending bill passed on a bipartisan vote, a majority of House Republicans voted against the measure. A total of 84 Republicans voted with all but one Democrat in favor of Huffman's proposal, while 158 opposed it. The provision was ultimately left out of the final bicameral compromise VA appropriations legislation that was approved by the Senate.

Its exclusion from the final bill led Huffman and other House Democrats to urge the VA to change the policy regarding Confederate flag displays on its own in the absence of an actual policy enacted by Congress.

So even though this battle was finally won in Congress it was ultimately lost to the bureaucracy.

Dixie Grays, Ladoga, IN