An amendment to the House version of the annual defense bill that sought to allow the return of a Confederate memorial recently removed from Arlington National Cemetery failed to advance on Thursday.

The provision, which lawmakers voted to not include in the final version of their must-pass policy bill, would have instructed the Army to relocate the “Reconciliation Memorial” to the hallowed grounds of the northern Virginia burial site.

As both the House and Senate slogged away on their respective variants of the defense legislation, the reintroduction of the measure rehashed a partisan debate over whether reinstalling the monument would preserve American history or reinforce revisionist views of the Confederacy and slavery.

The bronze elements of the Confederate memorial were removed in December from the cemetery and are currently in storage. That followed a congressionally-mandated requirement to rename, remove or modify Department of Defense assets that a commission identified as commemorating the Confederate States of America.

Despite a brief back and forth over whether gravesites adjacent to the memorial were being disturbed in the removal process, a federal judge ultimately said no desecration was taking place and that the expulsion of the monument could continue.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, the Georgia Republican who introduced the amendment, and previously led dozens of Republicans in a push to stop its removal, spoke on the House floor Thursday.

“This monument in Arlington was a powerful symbol of the healing and unification of our nation after the deep divisions of the Civil War,” he said. Separately, in an op-ed he penned in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week, he wrote that it “does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy; it honors and commemorates national unity.”

But others have disagreed with that interpretation.

“I think it’s important to remember why we removed the memorial in the first place — because treason in defense of slavery is no virtue,” Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said on the House floor, adding that the monument “is not an emblem of a reconciled people.”

Unveiled in 1914, the monument includes imagery described as romanticizing the pre-Civil War South and denying the horrors of slavery and an inscription of a Latin phrase on the “Lost Cause” narrative. Descendants of the statue’s sculptor also encouraged that it be taken down, The Washington Post previously reported.

Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., argued that monuments like this, which were put up after Reconstruction — a period when formerly enslaved people slowly began to gain social, political and economic power — were meant to build false perceptions of the Civil War.

“Through the use of voter suppression, racial terror and propaganda, efforts were made to say to Black Americans who finally started to gain in the promise of our founding documents, ‘stay in your place,’” she said. “The “Lost Cause” narrative was a part of that. Many of these monuments were a part of that.”

Arlington National Cemetery maintains the gravesites of more than 400 Confederate veterans and their spouses, according to a cemetery spokesperson, who declined to comment on the potential legislation.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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