Sunday, January 2, 2011

House to read US Constitution makes history!

Tomorrow marks the first day of the new Republican lead House of Representatives and history will be made. For the first time in our history the entire United States Constitution will be read on the House floor. In addition to being read, a new rule will be put into place that will require all bills contain a statement by the author of the bill that cites the constitutional authority "to enact the proposed law". Now, the rule does sound a bit redundant since the oath all members of Congress take is to uphold the Constitution thus it would make sense that all bills written would already follow this unwritten rule.

Tea Party members of Congress are the catalyst behind the rule change and the reading of the Constitution tomorrow. I wonder how many of those elected to Congress have themselves read the Constitution. Kevin Gutzman, history professor at Western Connecticut State University, sees the reading as "entirely cosmetic" and believes, "This is the way the establishment handles grassroots movements. They humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant. And then once they've humored them and those people go away, it's right back to business as usual. It looks like this will be business as usual – except for the half-hour or however long it takes to read the Constitution out loud" (http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/112756494.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUvDEhiaE3miUsZ). Professor Gutzman may be correct because we have already seen the Republicans, during the lame duck session, cave on UE benefit extensions and START Treaty.

Akhil Reed Amar suggested, "Heck, I'll do them one better. Why only once in January? Why not once every week?" Mr. Amar is a constitutional scholar at Yale Law School. I agree with Amar that perhaps the Constitution needs to be read more often and possibly even debated a bit to make all aware. Has Congress and the rest of the Federal Government moved itself away from the Constitution? Or is this merely "cosmetic" with no real grit? I will be doing my civic duty when I am sworn in at Hamburg City Council member tomorrow and will be attending a two-day crash course on municipal governance later in the month.