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The first hour of a GOP-led House committee's meeting was a food fight over saying the Pledge of Allegiance

Oma Seddiq   

The first hour of a GOP-led House committee's meeting was a food fight over saying the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Republicans and Democrats fell into a heated debate over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • The spat came as the House Judiciary Committee met to decide on rules for the panel.

Before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee convened on Wednesday for a hearing on the US southern border, the panel's members fell into a lengthy and tense spat over whether to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of its meetings.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida had suggested a change to the committee's rules that would require each meeting to begin with the Pledge of Allegiance — an amendment that was swiftly criticized by his Democratic colleagues as unnecessary.

"I would oppose it simply on the grounds that, as members know, we pledge allegiance everyday on the floor," said Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the highest-ranking Democrat on the panel. "And I don't know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are."

The exchange grew especially heated after Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island challenged Gaetz's amendment by proposing new language that would ban insurrectionists from leading the pledge in a swipe at fellow lawmakers; Gaetz was one of at least six GOP lawmakers who sought pardons from then-President Donald Trump after the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

"If we adopt this amendment, then we will be truthful in representing that stating this pledge is an affirmation of your defense of democracy and the Constitution," Cicilline said. "It's hard to take that claim seriously, if in fact, an individual who in any way supported an insurrection against the government of the United States is allowed to lead the pledge."

Gaetz shot back, claiming that Cicilline's proposal would disqualify several Democrats from saying the Pledge of Allegiance since they had objected to results in previous elections.

The back-and-forth dragged on, prompting a seemingly exasperated GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who supported Gaetz's amendment, to acknowledge at one point: "Come on. This can't be real. I can't believe we're having this debate."

The partisan dust-up over the committee's rules suggests more fiery fights are to come on the key congressional panel as Republicans plan to launch a series of investigations into President Joe Biden's administration and his family, the border, and federal agencies. The panel's newly created subcommittee on the "weaponization of the federal government" aims to probe entities like the FBI and DOJ over what Republicans view as politically motivated attacks against Trump and other Democratic opponents.

The committee on Wednesday ultimately approved Gaetz's amendment, before taking a short break and then holding a hearing entitled "Biden's Border Crisis – Part One" to "examine border security, national security, and how fentanyl has impacted American lives."

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