On Wednesday, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz introduced a new amendment to the House Judiciary Committee hearing rules, which would require lawmakers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before each meeting.
Gaetz’s proposal was likely aimed at embarrassing Democrats on the committee, who opposed the requirement.
The pledge has been used as a political weapon numerous times in U.S. history, to label those who don’t participate or who oppose its use as unpatriotic. Nativists and white supremacists have also used the pledge to attack people they deem “un-American” based on their race or immigration status.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (R-New York), who previously chaired the Judiciary Committee, objected to Gaetz’s proposal.
“I don’t know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are,” Nadler said.
Predictably, Gaetz and other committee members fired back, noting that Nadler and others aren’t always on the House floor when the pledge is recited. Nadler responded by saying that there is documentation of him saying the pledge many times.
Later that day, after the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, Gaetz attacked Nadler on social media for opposing his amendment. “The Pledge of Allegiance is not a waste of time,” Gaetz said on Twitter. The account representing the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee also rebuked Nadler and Democrats for opposing the idea.
During the meeting, however, Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) turned the issue on its head. Cicilline proposed adding wording to Gaetz’s amendment on reciting the pledge specifying that no person “who supported an insurrection against the United States in any way” should be invited to read the pledge before the committee.
Republicans voiced their disdain for the idea, interpreting it as an attack on some members’ votes against certifying the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021, the day the Capitol was attacked by a mob of loyalists to former President Donald Trump. Gaetz claimed that Democrats “may be disqualifying [their] own members” through such an amendment, perhaps referring to the fact that Democrats have voted against certifying electors in previous presidential elections (though not nearly in the same numbers as Republicans in 2021).
Cicilline said it was “interesting” that Gaetz’s mind went in that direction, since his proposed amendment was referring to people in general, not solely lawmakers.
“I think we should all agree that no one who participated in insurrection should lead the Judiciary Committee in the Pledge of Allegiance, so it shouldn’t be complicated to accept this amendment,” Cicilline said, adding:
This pledge is an affirmation of your defense of democracy and the Constitution. It’s hard to take that claim seriously if in fact, an individual in any way supported an insurrection against the government.
Cicilline’s amendment was ultimately defeated, while Gaetz’s amendment, requiring that the Pledge of Allegiance be read before each committee hearing, was passed.
Had Cicilline’s amendment passed, it likely wouldn’t have been enforced, as it would have given power to determine whether or not someone is an insurrectionist to the Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Only one person in the U.S. so far has been successfully barred from holding future office for violating the insurrectionist clause of the 14th Amendment — former Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin, who helped coordinate the attack on the Capitol.
Notably, Trump himself could be barred from holding office in the future under the insurrectionist clause. Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has promised that the organization will seek to have Trump listed as an insurrectionist under the terms of the 14th Amendment.
In an open letter to Trump in November, Bookbinder warned that if Trump announced another presidential run, CREW would take appropriate action to bar him “based on [his] engaging in the insurrection that culminated on January 6, 2021.”
“The evidence that you engaged in insurrection as contemplated by the Fourteenth Amendment — including by mobilizing, inciting, and aiding those who attacked the Capitol — is overwhelming,” Bookbinder wrote, weeks before Trump announced his 2024 presidential run.
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