Sen. Kevin Johnson said Monday afternoon that he believes the General Assembly has the two-thirds' majority it needs to "successfully remove the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds to a more appropriate place."
Johnson was pleased with Gov. Nikki Haley's call Monday to remove the flag from the Confederate Monument on the Gervais Street side of the Capitol grounds.
"I was pleased with the stance the governor took, and I was glad to see a bi-partisan group of state legislators," he said. "I was even more impressed as far as who was in that group. I think taking down the flag is the right thing to do. And I think based on what I hear from other members of the General Assembly, we will get to the two-thirds' vote needed to remove it to a more appropriate place, which I believe is the State Museum."
Johnson said while he and many of his colleagues were looking forward to taking a break in the next couple of weeks - after veto sessions - he "will be glad to go back."
State law concerning the flag's move to the Confederate Monument dictates that only a two-thirds' vote by both houses of the General Assembly can change legislation regarding the flag, including its removal. Haley said Monday that she will use her authority as governor to call back legislators to a special session in several weeks after the current one is completed.
"I will be happy to spend as much time as needed to resolve this issue and have the vote," he said. "It's important to get this done sooner rather than later."
Johnson said his only disappointment is that it took a tragedy to restart the debate on the issue, which has simmered since the flag was removed from atop the State House in July 2000 to the Confederate Monument after a long legislative debate.
State leaders and civil rights advocates have reignited the call to remove the flag in the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of nine parishioners last week at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
"My biggest disappointment in this is that it always seems like, at least since I've been in the General Assembly, that we're always reactionary," Johnson said. "It always takes some type of tragedy or event before we come together to do the right thing."
Johnson said he hopes the bi-partisan leadership shown Monday by Haley and other Republican leaders will continue.
"I don't think it will be easy when we come back together in a few weeks," he said. "I think it will be difficult. There's going to be a lot of debate about the removal, particularly on where the flag should be relocated. But I'm hopeful that we can do the right thing, and I think the votes are there to do it. We have to put the politics aside and do what's right for the state of South Carolina and our citizens."