Monday, January 10, 2011

Should the Constitution be read aloud at the beginning of every session of Congress?

The House's new Republican majority decided to honor the Constitution by mandating that it be read aloud, beginning to end, as the first order of business of the session.

The Left generally derided this as idolatry, as well as pointing out that it cost taxpayers over a million dollars to do so while more and more Americans unwillingly joined the "99 week" club in which your unemployment payments run out after 99 weeks.

They also pointed out that the reading was of a sanitized version of the Constitution, with all the parts revised or deleted later through amendment deleted.

The Right claimed this was pragmatically obvious--that the purpose of the reading was to remind congressmen of the parts that are still germane, to keep in mind as they craft new legislation.

The Left replied that we also needed to remind congressmen that the Founding Fathers weren't perfect, and that omitting the parts later amended/deleted contributed to the presumption that every word they wrote is sacred and no future amendments should be considered.

Centrists like me note that there are a number of features of the Constitution that the Right want changed--such as the use of the 14th Amendment to give citizenship to babies born here even when their parents are here illegally. Doing so wasn't the intent of the 14 Amendment's framers--they were just trying to keep Southern states from disenfranchising ex-slaves and their offspring.

I say that they should have read the whole thing. The parts still extant are useful to guide legislation--and so are the deleted parts, reminding us to treat the Founding Fathers with respect but not reverence.

But here's the kicker. All those flagwaving Republicans who insisted on this public display of conspicuous patriotism? Most of them left the chambers long before this reading was over. By the end only 42 Representatives were left--and that proves what a hollow exercise this was.

I would have been impressed if they'd all stuck around 'till the last dog was hung, so to speak. But they split instead, thus validating the Democrats' contention that this was just another waste of taxpayer money and a diversion from the Republicans' stated goal of focusing like a laser on getting Americans employed again.

Instead it showed that they have a laserlike focus, all right, but it's not on helping Americans who are out of work--it's on bringing back the Bush years of Republican control of all three branches and the fiscal responsibility that ensued.


1 comment:

n1ck said...

No. Reading it was a huge waste of time, and about as meaningful as the rush to pray in public during the Terry Schiavo thing.

The Constitution is an important document. But the people elected to office have already sworn to uphold it, so reading it is empty posturing that our country does not need.