Matt Gaetz Sparks Tense Exchange Over Pledge of Allegiance

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida on Wednesday introduced an amendment in the House Judiciary Committee that would include a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting.

The move caused not only objections but also a heated moment between Republican and Democratic members of the committee.

As Gaetz noted, he first called for the Judiciary Committee to open with the pledge two years ago. Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, who was chairman of the committee at the time, told Gaetz in 2021 that the move was unnecessary since the committee members already pledge allegiance on the House floor every morning.

On Wednesday, Nadler used the same reasoning when he was the first to speak out against Gaetz's amendment.

"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."

Matt Gaetz with Jerry Nadler inset pic
In the main image, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida is seen at the U.S. Capitol on January 10 in Washington, D.C. The smaller image shows Representative Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, during a news conference on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Nadler’s objection to an amendment introduced by Gaetz for the House Judiciary Committee resulted in a tense exchange of words between committee members. Photos by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In introducing the amendment to the committee, Gaetz said it would give "our members the ability to invite inspirational constituents to be able to share and lead in the Pledge of Allegiance."

Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who succeeded Nadler as the committee chair, said that he supported the amendment before Nadler expressed his dissent.

Representative Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, criticized Nadler for not supporting the amendment and claimed the New York City-born representative frequently didn't attend the morning recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I've not seen Mr. Nadler on the floor when the pledge is done, and most members are not present there. So it's not accurate to say we do the pledge every day or participate in the pledge every day," Johnson said. "It may be offered but you're not there for it."

Johnson continued, "This is the work of the Judiciary Committee. This is the committee that has the charge of defending the Constitution and our fundamental freedoms and defending the very freedoms that the flag represents. And so it's a bit absurd to suggest we couldn't take 30 seconds at the beginning of this important work to do what should be done by all Americans."

Nadler later defended himself. He said that while he and other committee members aren't always present for the morning pledge, he's "pledged allegiance dozens of times" and will continue to do so.

Democratic Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia then spoke and used the moment to criticize those members of the committee who had not done more in regard to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. He also condemned those who had supported the "big lie," which is the baseless theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

"I regret the fact that many members of this committee voted against certifying the election results based on the 'big lie,' and they have continued to promote the 'big lie' and undermine public confidence in our government," Johnson said.

He added that he felt it was "ironic" for members who "supported the insurrection" to now want to force the committee to pledge allegiance to the flag.

Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, also invoked the attack on the Capitol during the meeting. He said he would support Gaetz's amendment if it contained a provision that would restrict "anyone who supported insurrection" from leading the pledge.

Gaetz later posted a video clip of the heated exchange on Twitter. In the caption for his post, he wrote: "Why does patriotism make Democrats so heated?"

Newsweek reached out to Gaetz and Nadler for comment.