U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., with eight co-sponsors, introduced Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 46 on Flag Day, calling to give Congress the authority to prohibit deliberate acts of physical desecration to the U.S. flag. The measure follows introduction of a similar bill in the House on Feb. 2 by Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.
Rep. Steve Womack (R) of District 3, Arkansas, introduced House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 61 into the 115th Congress, along with 13 original co-sponsors, which aims at restoring Congress' constitutional authority over prohibiting desecration of our national colors. Womack is a veteran, who believes specific protections of the flag should not simply be law. They should be enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution was last amended in 1992 with the ratification of the 27th Amendment, which limited laws regarding the raising or lowering of Congressional salaries. Some opponents of a flag amendment would lead others to believe that the amendment, standing alone, will ban flag desecration – it will not – it is an enabling amendment. It would merely return to Congress the power to pass legislation that would protect the flag. It would only allow Congress to write a law that, like any law, would be subject to debate, required to be voted on by both houses of Congress, and subject to veto by the President
President-elect Donald. J. Trump expressed his position that there should be some penalty for U.S. flag desecration by stating in a tweet, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc., continued the tenure of Richard Parker, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, through its reaffirmation of Parker as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CFA.
Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 21, companion bill to Rep. Steve Womack’s. The bills state simply, “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
Rep. Steve Womack(R) of District 3, Arkansas introduced a joint-resolution to the U.S. Congress which aims at restoring Congress' constitutional authority over descration of our national colors. Womack is a veteran, who believes specific protections of the flag should not simply be law. They should be enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution was last amended in 1992 with the ratification of the 27th Amendment, which limited laws regarding the raising or lowering of Congressional salaries.
On Jan. 23, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., introduced House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 19, a bill proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
With the 111th Congress nearing its end, hopes for amendment action are bleak, marking only the second Congress in more than 16 years in which there was no floor vote on a flag protection amendment. There is no expectation for action on Capitol Hill before Congress adjourns. Anticipating return of the amendment in the next Congress, efforts get underway to assess flag amendment support among members of both the House and the Senate in the 112th Congress.
With only 72 cosponsors for H.J. Res. 47 and only 26 cosponsors for S.J. Res. 15, the road to enactment in the 111th Congress looks to be a long one. The House resolution is in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Senate resolution is in the Committee on the Judiciary. A simple majority of cosponsors in both chambers is lacking and expectations for hearings are low.
Reaffirmed as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc., Richard Parker, Williams Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, continues his work of many years with The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance in support of a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the flag.
Senate Joint Resolutions 15 is introduced by Senator David Vitter [R-LA]. The legislative strategy to be employed includes letters of support and appreciation to all cosponsors from The Citizens Flag Alliance Board Chairman Richard Parker.
Representatives Jo Ann Emerson [R-MO] and Jim Marshall [D-GA] introduce House Joint Resolution 47, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
To determine the latest measure of support, Legionnaires attending the Annual Washington Conference of The American Legion raise discussion with members of Congress in their Capitol Hill offices. Discussions with both Sen. Vitter and Rep. Emerson lead to expectations for the introduction, by each, of a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag in their respective chambers. Reports from Legionnaires and surveys completed previously by the CFA show that among the 435 members of the House, more than 225 are amendment supporters.
Senator David Vitter [R-LA] introduces Senate Joint Resolution 2, “proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the Congress and the States to prohibit the act of desecration of the flag of the United States and to set criminal penalties for that act.” The following day Rep. Jo Ann Emerson [R-MO], introduces House Joint Resolution 8, a companion measure. The language of these resolutions is problematic, since they give power to the Congress “and the States” to prohibit flag desecration and place “criminal penalties” on the act. Both issues concern the CFA.
With significant changes in leadership on Capitol Hill, opportunity for hearings and other flag amendment action, early on, appears slight as the 111th Congress convenes. The first hurdle is to get a proposed amendment introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States.
The close of the 110th Congress marks the first in six consecutive congresses that a proposed flag amendment did not get to the floor of either chamber for a vote. Consequently, there is little opportunity for activation of grassroots efforts so critical to securing a flag amendment.
With congressional action lacking on a flag amendment during the Second Session of the 110th Congress the media is virtually silent, leaving scant opportunity for CFA to draw public attention to the amendment. Focus now turns to the 2008 Elections where early results indicate fair support for a flag amendment among members of the House, but far less support in the Senate.
At the close of the First Session of the 110th Congress, little has been seen or heard of H. J. Res. 12, beyond its introduction at the start of the session. The CFA is unable to secure a Senate champion who is willing to make introduction there. Former supporters suggest, since the Congress is predominantly Democrat, that the chief Senate cosponsor ought to be a Democrat. None come forward; none can be persuaded to make the introduction.
House Joint Resolution 12, the flag amendment, is introduced in the 110th Congress by US Rep. John Murtha [D-PA]. Discussions get underway with Senators to effect similar actions on their side of the Hill, but at year’s end a Senate amendment is non-existent.
The mid-term elections result in a change of leadership in both Houses of Congress. With those changes come changes in Committee structure and leadership. Those who strongly advocated for the amendment move out of their positions of authority while those who have advocated its defeat move in.
Later in the day the floor debate begins. S.J. Res. 12 is put to a vote, but is lost by one. In a 66-34 finish, the decision to protect the flag is again kept from the people by a handful of United States Senators.
Tennessee’s U.S. Senator Bill Frist hosts a press conference on Capitol Hill and is joined by supporters to include chief sponsors of the measure, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Dianne Feinstein. Media attention peaks when Major League Baseball great Rick Monday and former Miss America Heather French Henry call for full Senate support of the flag amendment.
Supporters return to “Walk the Hill” again to nail down the single vote that is needed.
With the vote approaching, a CFA-sponsored “Walk the Hill” event enjoys participation from more than one hundred amendment supporters.
Media attention mounts as press conferences are conducted at Hartford, Connecticut; Dover, Delaware; Springfield, Illinois; Frankfort, Kentucky; Albany, New York; Bismarck, North Dakota; Warwick, Rhode Island; Salt Lake City, Utah; Olympia, Washington; and Charleston, West Virginia to announce polling results in those states. With that, the flag amendment becomes “front page” news.
The CFA launches “Countdown to Victory.” A plan is developed and executed to secure the one vote needed to pass the flag amendment. Polling is done in several key states; press conferences are set to announce the results of the polls. Letter writing, emailing, and personal visit campaigns are set in motion. All efforts are focused on the June 26 date.
Representatives of the Citizens Flag Alliance descend on Capitol Hill in early March to go face-to-face with a number of Senators on the flag amendment. Visits with Majority Leader Bill Frist result in the “promise” of a date to bring the flag amendment to the floor for a vote: the week of June 26, 2006.
With support for the amendment at a record high, a letter writing campaign is launched, focusing on all members of the Judiciary asking that they bring SJR 12 to a hearing before April 1, 2006.
The Second Session of the 109th Congress brings excitement with the departure of amendment opponent Sen. Jon Corzine, who wins an election bid for Governor of the State of New Jersey. The appointment to fill his un-expired term goes to long-time flag amendment proponent Robert Menendez, formerly the U.S. Representative from New Jersey’s 13th District. This puts support for the flag amendment at 66 – just one vote away from the required 67 votes.
Promises are made and tentative schedules are set for hearings on Senate Joint Resolution 12 by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights. In last minute “bargaining” schedules are scuttled after opponents suggest a later time for hearings would better suit the Senate’s calendar. The First Session of the 109th Congress adjourns with the Senate having taken no action on the flag amendment.
Nominations and hearings associated with the selection of new Supreme Court Justices pushes aside Senate action on the flag amendment. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita further burden the Senate schedule as relief legislation gets priority attention and many measures – to include the flag amendment – are placed on a back burner.
Reacting to media reports that play fast and loose with the facts, and commentary detrimental to the flag amendment in the state of Utah, the CFA commissions yet another survey to determine the precise level of support among residents there. Results of the 500-respondent poll refute the media hype, revealing that 8 of 10 Utah residents believe that flag desecration should be against the law. Seventy percent of all respondents “favor” the amendment. The CFA calls a press conference in Salt Lake City in early August to announce the polling results.
In further support of possible Senate action on the amendment, the CFA organizes a “Walk the Hill” event and invites CFA partners to participate. Twenty-five representatives of various member organizations spend three days on Capitol Hill meeting face-to-face with Senators and their staff. Opposition is addressed, support is gathered, and commitments are nailed down.
In concert with the Hill presence, the CFA places pro-amendment ads in The National Journal, a prestigious Capitol Hill magazine. Ads run in four consecutive issues through the month of July. Subjects include results of the national survey; a discourse by Harvard Law School Professor Richard Parker on why a “statute approach” [simple law] to flag protection will not work; a public declaration of support by Medal of Honor recipients is stated; and a second piece that exposes the mind-set of Senators who discredit the amendment while touting the merits of a simple statute.
Anticipating Senate action soon, a major letter writing campaign is launched within the ranks of the CFA and aimed at every member of the United States Senate.
The Citizens Flag Alliance commissions a nationwide poll to determine, once again, the public’s desire for flag protection. Results are not surprising. The survey of more than 1,000 adult respondents shows 80 percent believe flag desecration should be “against the law”; 75 percent of all respondents “favor” the flag amendment. These figures reflect extremely consistent support among the American people, support that has not waned over sixteen years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. Johnson.
House Joint Resolution 10 goes to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives where attempts to scuttle it fail. On June 22nd the proposed amendment passes 286-130, marking the sixth consecutive time that a flag amendment has passed in the House.
Senators Orrin Hatch [R-UT] and Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] introduce Senate Joint Resolution 12 on April 14th. Fifty Senate cosponsors join them in support and by July the number of Senators on record in support of the amendment is at 58, nine away from the 67 needed to pass the amendment.
The 108th Congress adjourns, sine die. The flag amendment never gets to the Senate floor. On Tuesday, January 25, 2005, Representatives Duke Cunningham [R-CA] and John Murtha [D-PA], with 46 cosponsors introduce House Joint Resolution [H.J. Res.] 10, a proposed constitutional amendment that reads, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." Similar action is pending in the Senate, where backing for the amendment is greater than ever with 65 supporters of record.
MG Brady makes a strong appeal to Senate Republican and Democrat leaders to take action on the amendment. The American Legion purchases ad space in prominent Washington publications – and in no uncertain terms chastises both supporters and opponents in the Senate for allowing the “will of the people” to languish in the closing days of the 108th Congress.
Pressure by flag amendment advocates forces action and SJR 4 is favorably released by the Judiciary, headed to the Senate floor with a 5-4 vote. The Senate leadership promises a vote in September, but reneges on the promise, while offering up the idea of a pre-election vote. But, again, the promise is broken when the elections pass without amendment action.
Two months after Senate hearings, no Judiciary mark-up is done. Independence Day passes and the situation remains unchanged.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) calls hearings on SJR 4, the Senate version of the flag amendment. Individuals from several CFA member organizations fill the hearing room as the Judiciary hears testimony from CFA’s MG Patrick Brady and consultant Professor Richard Parker, who are joined by professional racecar driver John Andretti. Andretti draws great media attention and broadens support among “NASCAR Dads” and others who learn of the amendment. Senate leadership promises a vote between Memorial Day and July, but delays dog the procedure.
The House Judiciary takes up HJR 4 in closed sessions, skipping formal hearings and going right to a mark-up. The proposed amendment is sent to the floor by an 18-13 vote of the Judiciary. On June 3, 2003, the measure is brought to the floor of the House. With the highest vote count in four years, the United States House of Representatives passes House Joint Resolution 4 – the flag protection constitutional amendment – for the fifth consecutive time since the CFA’s campaign began with the 104th Congress. Going to the floor for a vote, the proposed amendment carries 213 official cosponsors.
On the opening day of the 108th Congress, flag amendment chief co-sponsors John Murtha (D-PA) and Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) introduced House Joint Resolution 4. Twenty-four colleagues joined them as cosponsors. The following week, on Jan. 15, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an identical measure in the Senate. In addition to the two chief cosponsors, Senate Joint Resolution 4 enjoys co-sponsorship from 41 other Senators.
Results of the November mid-term elections reveals that more than 300 Representatives and 64 Senators will take seats in the 108th Congress.