The House suspended consideration of a fiscal 2016 spending bill to fund the Department of Interior until lawmakers meet to discuss the fate of Confederate flag displays on federal land.
"I want members on both side of the aisle to sit down and have a conversation to address what has become a very thorny issue," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Thursday. "That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we come to some resolution on this."
The move comes after Democrats and Republicans began squabbling over an effort to reverse an amendment that would have banned displaying the flag on federal land, including parks and cemeteries.
Some southern Republican members, taken by surprise, balked at the amendment, which was approved by voice vote. They introduced their own provision to reverse the amendment, angering Democrats.
That's when Boehner stepped in. Boehner told reporters that he plans to convene a group of lawmakers to discuss the issue of whether to display the Confederate flag on federal land.
When asked if he believes the flag should be flown on federal land, Boehner said, "No." But he wants lawmakers to talk about it before resuming consideration of the spending bill.
"I believe it's time for some members to sit down and have a conversation about how to deal with this issue in a responsible way," Boehner said, adding that he has "a fairly good idea" which members should be negotiating.
The floor fight over the Confederate flag comes after South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove it from the grounds of the state capitol after an emotional debate.
Efforts to stop flying the flag began after nine parishioners in an historic black church in Charleston were gunned down by a man who had been pictured displaying the flag.
Democrats and environmental groups seemed fine with the roadblock for the Interior spending bill, something Republicans haven't been able to pass since they took over the House in 2010. The bill has become a way for Republicans to attach policy riders aimed at handcuffing President Obama's climate and environmental regulations.
"GOP pulls toxic interior approps bill, admit that they can't pass it unless Confederate battle flags could be displayed at National Parks," tweeted Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the ranking member on the House Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee.
The legislation would forbid implementation of a rule limiting carbon emissions from power plants — the centerpiece of Obama's climate agenda. It would also block a clean-water rule that's angered rural Americans, prevent an endangered listing for the greater sage grouse that lives in 11 Western states, and nix potentially more stringent smog standards.
Zack Colman contributed