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GOP makes unnecessary promise about prayer, Pledge of Allegiance

“Next year," Kevin McCarthy vowed, "Republicans will start every day of Congress with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance." But Congress already does this.


Republicans don’t have much of a policy agenda for the next Congress, and since Election Day, many key GOP officials have made clear that the party’s focus will be on investigations and conspiracy theories.

This week on Facebook, however, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a different kind of vow: “Next year, Republicans will start every day of Congress with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. No exceptions.”

Some on the right celebrated and promoted the GOP leader’s promise, as if it represented some kind of conservative cultural shift on Capitol Hill.

There was, however, a small problem, which Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California highlighted via Twitter yesterday:

“Democrats put people over politics and are focused on lower costs, better paying jobs and safer communities. What are Republicans focused on? Something that the House of Representatives has already been doing this year, last year and like for 200 years.”

Yes, McCarthy’s vow that Republicans will start every day of Congress with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance — without exceptions — isn’t wrong so much as it’s unnecessary.

If you were to go to Capitol Hill any day in which members are in session, you’d hear a daily invocation and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance on the floor. It’s not just tradition: It’s literally a written rule of the U.S. House of Representatives.

McCarthy is promising the public, in other words, that Republicans will implement a policy that’s already been implemented. Indeed, it’s a policy that’s been in place for generations. It’s no different from the GOP leader saying, “Next year, Republicans will start every day of Congress by turning on the lights. No exceptions.”

Dr. Joanne Freeman, a Yale historian, chided the minority leader, adding yesterday, “McCarthy is basically telling his base: LOOK AT THE VIRTUOUS THING WE’RE DOING. ... This claim is empty Culture War stuff.”

I am curious, though, about the minority leader’s motivation. As best as I can tell, there are a handful of possibilities:

  • Maybe McCarthy, despite serving in Congress for nearly 16 years, doesn’t know that the House already begins its days with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Maybe McCarthy does know it, but he’s hoping the public hasn’t heard about this, and they’ll be impressed.
  • Maybe McCarthy, concerned about his difficult bid to become House speaker, is hoping some of his own members haven’t heard about this.

If the answer comes into focus, I’ll update this post.

CORRECTION (Nov. 28, 2022, 6:03 p.m. ET): A previous version of this post misidentified the state Congressman Ted Lieu represents. He represents California, not Colorado.