‘Pledge of Allegiance’ fracas erupts before Jordan’s first Judiciary Committee hearing

WASHINGTON, D. C. — Is it appropriate to say the Pledge of Allegiance before a House Judiciary Committee meeting?

Democrats and Republicans on the committee, now chaired by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Champaign County Republican whose district includes Lima, argued over that question for more than half an hour at a Wednesday meeting to set the committee’s rules.

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Jordan ally from Florida, kicked off the debate by suggesting that the committee be given the opportunity to begin each of its meetings with the pledge.

“It gives our members the ability to invite inspirational constituents to be able to share and lead in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Gaetz said. “I offered this amendment to the Judiciary rules two years ago, and it was defeated. And I’m very optimistic that we’ll have a different outcome today.”

The top Democrat on the committee, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the New York congressman who chaired the committee when it defeated Gaetz’ last effort, expressed opposition. He said House of Representatives members already say the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor every day.

“I don’t know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are,” Nadler said.

Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Rep. David Cicilline followed up by trying to amend Gaetz’ proposal to disqualify anyone who “supported an insurrection against the government of the United States in any way” from leading the pledge and making a mockery of it by standing “before this committee with their hand over their heart, claiming to support the Constitution.”

Gaetz said that if Cicilline defined an insurrection by objecting to electors after a presidential contest, many Democrats on the committee wouldn’t be eligible to lead the pledge.

“The last Republican president to get sworn in absent objectors was George Herbert Walker Bush,” Gaetz said.

Jordan weighed in by saying the committee wouldn’t force anyone to say the pledge.

“For those of us that do want to stand, put our hand over our heart and say the pledge, I think that’s appropriate,” Jordan said.

After a long discussion where each side suggested the other was unpatriotic, the GOP-controlled committee passed Gaetz’s proposal along party lines and rejected Cicilline’s effort to alter it.

When the committee moved on from that issue to begin a hearing on border control efforts, Cicilline insisted on beginning it by leading the Pledge of Allegiance himself.

“If the gentleman is insisting on doing that, I would welcome Mr. Cicilline to lead the Judiciary Committee in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Jordan replied.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, happy to,” Cicilline said.