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House OKs Flag Amendment

For the third consecutive Congress, the House Thursday voted to amend the Constitution to allow legislation that would ban desecration of the flag.

The 305-124 vote was a comfortable 19 votes above the two-thirds needed for a constitutional amendment. It moves the focus to the Senate, which in the past has resisted what supporters say is needed to protect the nation's symbol.

Before the final ballot, the House rejected, 310-115, a Democratic substitute that qualified the amendment by saying that any act to prohibit defilement of the flag must be "not inconsistent" with the First Amendment.

As CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer reports, the House action was a very predictable exercise in Washington politics.

The month of June means two things in Washington, tourists gather outside the Capitol and inside, the House of Representatives takes its annual vote to add an amendment to the Constitution to ban desecration of the flag.

"You can literally rip the stars and stripes off our flag. Beam me up," complained Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio.

The arguments are always the same. Advocates say the flag must be protected. Opponents say such an amendment violates free speech. "Our government cannot, must not, prohibit freedom of expression simply because it disagrees with its message," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

Again this year, the House approved the amendment as it has in years past. But it's all symbolism since both sides are well aware the votes still aren't there to pass it in the Senate. "I think the numbers are about the same as they've been for sometime," confirmed Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Even so, Thursday's vote should be happy news for everyone. This congress has been very conscientious about taking symbolic actions -the flag vote follows the vote to post the Ten Commandments in schools last week.

Now, with all that out of the way, Congress can finally turn to things like passing the appropriations bills necessary to keep the government running.

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