NC representatives involved in heated debate over Pledge of Allegiance

Democrat Rep. Deborah Ross, Nc-02. Courtesy of Forbes YouTube.

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  • One amendment proposed would prohibit anyone who participated in an insurrection from leading the committee in the pledge.

Two North Carolina members of Congress were involved in a heated discussion Wednesday over an amendment involving the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, proposed an amendment during the organizational meeting of the House Judiciary Committee that the pledge be said before each meeting. Gaetz first called for the committee to open with the pledge two years ago.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, New York, who was chairman of the committee in 2021, told Gaetz and the rest of the committee that adding the amendment was unnecessary, just like he said in 2021.

“We pledge allegiance every day on the floor, and I don’t know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are,” Nadler said. “I don’t think this is the most important amendment in the world.”

Democrat Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, countered Gaetz amendment with his own amendment that would prohibit anyone who participated in an insurrection from leading the committee in the pledge. He said Republicans could show their true patriotism by voting for it. The amendment failed 24-13.

Republican Congressman Jefferson Van Drew, of New Jersey, remarked, “This can’t be real. I can’t believe we are having this debate.”

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-NC08, welcomed Van Drew to the committee and said the argument provides a ‘helpful illustration’ for the American people of the change they have made in the House.

He also indicated that the Pledge of Allegiance must have a different meaning for Democrats.

“It’s undoubtedly an example of what they deplore when they deride a Make America Great Again majority,” he said. “They use the acronym MAGA as if there is something bad to make America great again, and when they think of the Pledge of Allegiance, what first comes to their mind? Insurrection.”

Bishop assured members that once the amendment goes through and the committee makes some progress, leadership will restore the House to “what the American American people expected to be.” 

Van Drew agreed, saying that he couldn’t understand how the Democrats could waste time arguing about the pledge and “why can’t they stand up and say they love their country and our flag.” 

Rep. Deborah Ross, D-NC02, added her commentary by requesting the committee staff provide a copy of the Supreme Court decision on the case of the West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) to every committee member. She also read a quote from that opinion. 

“If there’s any fixed star in our institutional constellation, it is that no official high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force our citizens to confess by word or action their faith therein,” Ross read.

“So, while I absolutely value our Constitution, I believe that while we’re having this discussion, we should also look at what the Supreme Court has said on this matter in other contexts,” she added.  

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH, told members that no one would force anyone to say the pledge if they didn’t want to.

“You don’t have to say it, you don’t have to stand, you don’t have to put your hand over your heart,” he said. “God bless you, it’s America, you can do that. But for those of us who do want to do that, for those of us who do want to stand, put our hand over heart, say the pledge, I think that’s appropriate as well.” 

Republican Rep. Chip Roy, Texas, chided Ross. 

“The gentlelady of North Carolina is suggesting to the people of this great country that we should not be standing and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States for it has a phrase in it, Under God, because that is what we’re standing here and saying.”

Ross hit back at Roy, saying he shouldn’t put words in her mouth. 

“That is completely false,” she said. “I wanted to just make the point that this committee and every member of this committee swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and while I take great pride in pledging allegiance in its full form when I’m on the floor of the House and in many, many places, we should look at the full context of every issue.” 

Bishop said while he appreciated Ross citing the quote from the Supreme Court ruling, he asked if she was implying that saying the Pledge of Allegiance offends the Constitution.

Ross said all she was doing was quoting the Supreme Court. 

“It alludes me,” Bishop replied. “It suggests that having the protocol of a pledge of allegiance, in the operation in the procedures of the House of Representatives is somehow compelling an orthodoxy which that would be a fundamental change to what we’ve seen in the practice here but it is illustrative of the moment that we’re in.” 

Gaetz amendment passed unanimously, 39-0.