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Election Issue : House Opens Session With Pledge to Flag

Associated Press

The House today opened its session with the Pledge of Allegiance, breaking with normal practice because of election-year squabbling over whether Democrats or Republicans are more patriotic.

House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) told reporters he intends to continue daily recitation of the pledge throughout the rest of this year’s session of Congress.

Today’s recitation was led by Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.) and is to be led on Wednesday by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-San Bernardino), with Democrats and Republicans alternating through the end of the session in October. The three dozen or so members in the chamber appeared to be roughly equally divided between the two parties.

The pledge has become an issue in this year’s political campaign, with GOP nominee George Bush criticizing Democrat Gov. Michael S. Dukakis for vetoing a bill in 1977 that would have penalized teachers for not leading the pledge in Massachusetts schools.

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Wright said the issue of whether to permanently rewrite House rules to call for saying the pledge daily might be brought before the full House next year.

But he repeated his belief that attempting to use the pledge as a political weapon “is McCarthyism.”

The pledge, Wright said, is like the daily prayer that opens House sessions. “It’s a personal matter” and members are “free not to do so” if they choose. “I don’t think it’s up to me to go around and see whose lips are moving,” he said.


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