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Flag burning amendment won't pass Senate, aides say

John Byrne
Published: Monday June 26, 2006

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Republicans cite Byrd

A constitutional amendment to criminalize burning of the American flag will not pass the Senate, senior Democratic aides and a Republican spokesman told RAW STORY Monday.

Aides say the vote will be close – within one or two votes – but will not pass. The measure will be debated in the Senate this week.

The flag burning amendment has come to the Senate numerous times and passed the House six times since 1995. Amendments to the constitution require two-thirds support of the Senate and the House. Three-quarters of state legislatures must then approve the move.

Democrats see the vote as a political stunt aimed at providing Republicans a wedge issue for the 2006 elections. But the amendment remains a thorny issue for Democrats, whose leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has previously supported the move and is expected to vote for it.

Republicans have signaled they will use the vote to target Democrats up for reelection in 2006.

"It certainly is an issue to highlight in states where members are clearly out of touch with their states,” said Brian Nick, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. “A classic example is [Sen.] Robert Byrd (D-WV), who used to be in favor of the amendment but now opposes it.”

Nick confirmed the amendment is one vote short in the Senate.

The vote will likely be the closest it has ever been. High profile Democrats Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NV), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) all oppose the amendment. Fourteen Democrats support it, according to the Associated Press.

A Kerry spokesman called the vote a “Republican tar baby.”

“Democrats shouldn’t take the bait and go into the fetal position trying to have it both ways,” Kerry spokesman David Wade told RAW STORY. “Our job is to put the GOP on the defensive. Period.”

“American soldiers being killed in Iraq, record gas prices, health care costs soaring, and this is how they choose to consume the peoples’ time?” Wade added. “Flogging an amendment opposed by generals like Colin Powell and Medal of Honor winners like Bob Kerrey? Bring it on.”

At least one prominent Republican opposes the amendment. Speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the first amendment -- protecting the freedom of speech -- takes precedence.

"I think the First Amendment has served us well for over 200 years," McConnell said. "I don't think it needs to be altered."

According to AP, recent Gallup polls indicate support for the amendment is ebbing. The percentage of Americans who favor banning flag burning has dropped from 71 percent in 1989 to 55 percent last year.

Correction: Constitutional amendments require support of three quarters of the states, not two thirds.