"What exactly is the tradition of the Confederate battle flag that we're supporting?" Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. challenged supporters of the proposal, shortly before the GOP leadership announced its decision.
"Is it slavery, rape, kidnap ,treason, genocide or all of the above?"
No Republican rose to respond.
Democratic protests aside, the vote was slated for a particularly awkward time — hours after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the same flag from a pole on the grounds of the State capitol.
The decision abruptly halted debate on legislation providing funds for the Interior Department and related agencies, and marked the latest in a string of developments relating to the Confederate flag in the House.
Earlier in the week, lawmakers decided by voice vote and without controversy to ban the display of the Confederate flag in Park Service-run cemeteries.
GOP leaders became concerned that the measure might fail — Democrats oppose it because they want more spending and some Republicans were unhappy with the prohibition on the flag.
That led to plans to reconsider the prohibition in a vote that had been set for Thursday afternoon.
The proposal would have permitted the limited display of the Confederate flag at Park Service-run cemeteries in states that observe a holiday commemorating the Confederacy, and only at the graves of rebels who died in the Civil War.
It would have affected 10 graveyards, including four in Tennessee, three in Virginia and one each in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.