Congress And The Constitution

Earlier this week, after the new Congress was seated, members of the House of Representatives read most of the Constitution aloud.  The decision to do so was surprisingly controversial.  Some pundits contended that the reading of the Constitution was a sop to “tea party” activists, and others suggested that the Republican majority of the House was treating the Constitution as if it were some kind of sacred document (which, in a very real sense, it is).

You wouldn’t think that the reading of our country’s foundational document — the one that establishes the structure of our government, identifies its three branches and defines their powers and responsibilities, and articulates the rights of American citizens — would provoke such a firestorm.  Why shouldn’t members of Congress and CSPAN viewers be reminded of what the Constitution actually says?  And to those who say the House of Representatives was just wasting time, I would respond that the floors of the House and the Senate have often been commandeered by members to address minutiae, in the form of turgid speeches about arcane issues like National Olive Month or the accomplishments of a local high school marching band. The simple, precise language of the Constitution is vastly superior to 99.9% of the commentary ever heard in the House or Senate.

I’m not sure that reading the Constitution aloud will have any impact on how this Congress does its job.  But I also don’t see how it can possibly hurt, either.  Every once in a while, it is useful to remember your roots, and your purpose.

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