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Is U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin opposed to schools displaying the American flag and having students say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem in school?
That’s a heavy-hitting claim from state Sen. Leah Vukmir of suburban Milwaukee, one of two major Republican candidates competing to face Baldwin in November 2018.
The claim came in a June 1, 2018, tweet:
"It’s clear Sen. Baldwin lacks pride in her country. She boldly opposed displaying the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem in our classrooms."
Vukmir repeated the statement on her campaign website and during a July 6, 2018, interview on The Jay Weber Show on WISN-AM: "If you go back and look at some of the things she supported when she was in the Wisconsin Legislature, it’s embarrassing – boldly opposing displaying the flag and reciting the Pledge or singing the national anthem in our classrooms…"
Is Vukmir right about Baldwin’s position on flag display, the pledge and national anthem in schools?
In the end, Vukmir’s claim comes down to one vote from 22 years ago, ignoring other votes that Baldwin could pull out and cite as evidence of patriotism.
Let’s take a look.
Included in Vukmir’s tweet was a link to the Assembly Journal for March 1996, which included a vote on Assembly Bill 667. Baldwin was elected to the chamber in 1993.
The bill aimed to change some of the requirements around displaying the American flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem in schools. They were as follows:
In public and private schools, flags would have to be displayed in every classroom during school hours. At the time, schools had the option to display it on a flagstaff on school grounds or in the classroom.
Public and private schools would have to offer the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem for grades 1 to 12 at the beginning of each school day. At the time, schools were required to offer the pledge to grades 1 to 8 once a week.
A statement was also included saying if students or their parents objected, students couldn’t be forced to say the pledge or sing the anthem.
So, the measure would have expanded requirements related to the pledge, flag and anthem that were on the books. It would not have created them, as Vukmir’s claim suggests.
In the end, Baldwin was one of two Assembly members to vote against the bill.
We could not locate any news articles from the time that included comments on why she voted against the measure. The Wisconsin State Journal did not have any record of coverage in its archives either. And Baldwin campaign spokesman Bill Neidhardt refused to comment on why Baldwin voted against the bill.
In any case, Assembly Bill 667 died in the Senate.
But language changing the grade levels where the pledge and national anthem had to be offered was later added to a budget bill, which passed in August 2001. By then Baldwin was in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When asked for evidence to back up the claim, Mattias Gugel, communications director for Vukmir’s campaign, pointed to the vote and basically repeated the words from the tweet.
Gugel also emailed a statement from Vukmir: "This isn’t a belief of my campaign – it’s Baldwin’s voting record."
The claim we’re examining is about a specific vote, and whether Vukmir characterized it correctly. However, it came in the context of a broad attack on Baldwin’s patriotism.
Neidhardt, Baldwin’s campaign spokesman, said the attack was "despicable" and noted that Baldwin -- like other senators -- took an oath to uphold the Constitution when sworn into office.
"Wisconsinites know that Tammy Baldwin is a dedicated leader who stands up for our country and its values every day, whether it's defending the display of the American flag, protecting the Pledge of Allegiance, or championing Buy American laws," Neidhardt said.
He also cited three pieces of legislation Baldwin voted on related to the flag and pledge:
In 2005, Baldwin voted in favor of Resolution 245, which urged the U.S. Supreme Court to "speedily find the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools to be consistent with the Constitution of the United States," citing two U.S. Court of Appeals rulings that were split on the issue.
That same year, Baldwin supported the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which prevented condominium, cooperative, or residential real estate management associations from restricting members from displaying the American flag.
Vukmir said Baldwin "opposed displaying the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem in our classrooms."
She cited a Baldwin vote from more than 20 years ago. While the vote happened, the claim is presented in a way that ignores Baldwin’s other votes supportive of the flag and pledge.
She portrayed the bill Baldwin voted against as one that would get rid of displaying the flag and offering the anthem and pledge in schools, when it was about changing specific requirements around them.
We rate her claim Mostly False.
Wisconsin State Legislature, Assembly Journal 1996
Wisconsin State Legislature, Assembly Bill 667
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, Final Vote Results for Resolution 245
Congress.gov, Resolution 245
ProCon.org, Resolution 245
Congress.gov, Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005
Congress.gov, A bill to Reaffirm the Reference to one Nation under God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, Final Vote Results for S.2690
Email exchange with Bill Neidhardt, spokesperson for Tammy Baldwin, July 6, 2018
Email exchange with Mattias Gugel, spokesperson for Leah Vukmir, June 26, 2018
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