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South Carolina House votes to remove Confederate flag from statehouse grounds

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill that will bring down the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds, less than a day after lawmakers in the state House of Representatives voted to remove it.

Haley, a Republican, called for the flag’s removal last month in the wake of the shooting massacre inside a Charleston church. The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle early Thursday morning when the House voted 94 to 20 in favor of the proposal.

After more than 13 hours of debate — which became increasingly contentious as the night wore on — House Republicans and Democrats agreed not to amend the legislation with a proposal that threatened to make final passage more difficult.

[Jenny Horne: How a descendant of the president of the Confederacy helped vanquish his flag ]

Just before 1 a.m. the lawmakers voted 93 to 27 to move it forward in a critical second-reading vote. Minutes later, the bill easily cleared the two-thirds threshold needed for it to officially pass the chamber, a hurdle the state Senate cleared earlier this week.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) dedicated the nine pens used to sign a bill to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds to the families of those killed in the church shooting in Charleston. (AP)

“It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state,” Haley said in a statement following Thursday’s early morning vote. The flag will come down 10 a.m. Friday, she said.

The push to remove the Confederate flag began anew following last month’s shooting of nine worshipers — including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a

state senator — at a historically black church in downtown Charleston. A day after the shooting, the U.S. flag atop the state’s capitol was lowered to half-staff while the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds remained flying high.

Photos then emerged of the now-indicted shooter, an avowed white supremacist, posing with the emblem. “The alleged killer of the Charleston nine used that flag as a symbol of hatred and bigotry and racism,” Democratic Sen. Joel Lourie said on Monday.

Advocates for the flag’s removal say it represents a racist legacy and a dark chapter in the nation’s history, while defenders insist it symbolizes Southern heritage and honors fallen soldiers.

Haley is expected to sign to sign it at 4 p.m. Thursday. The flag will be taken down at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, her office said.

— James Smith (@RepJamesSmith) July 9, 2015

The final bipartisan compromise will remove the flag and place it in the nearby Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

The House was stymied on a single amendment proposed by Republican Rep. Rick Quinn to include language within the bill about the flag’s placement in the museum. But the change, which would have amended the Senate bill, could have resulted in dragging out the legislative process for days or even weeks.

After more than three hours of debate marked by emotional pleas, some evoking the history of slavery, Quinn withdrew his proposal. Instead, lawmakers approved a separate bill that included the details of Quinn’s amendment.

Efforts to remove the flag faced more hurdles in the 124-member House than in the Senate. By Wednesday night, dozens of amendments had been introduced and tabled; Republican Rep. Michael Pitts led the charge to derail the flag removal proposal and spoke at length on each of his amendments.

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