GOP House to lead reading of Constitution

Dec. 29, 2010 at 3:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The incoming Republican Congress, in a nod to the Tea Party's electoral success, will require legislators to cite the Constitution with every proposed law.

When the GOP-controlled House convenes for the first time Jan. 5, legislators will read the Constitution aloud and then require all bills to cite the constitutional authority to enact any given law, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"It appears that the Republicans have been listening," Jeff Luecke, a Tea Party organizer in Dubuque, Iowa, told the Post. "We're so far away from our founding principles that, absolutely, this is the very, very tip of the iceberg. We need to talk about and learn about the Constitution daily."

But whether such flourishes will engender real legislative changes or simply offer window dressing is up for debate.

"I think it's entirely cosmetic," said Kevin Gutzman, a history professor at Western Connecticut State University and a conservative libertarian who sympathizes with the Tea Party. "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."

The Constitution will be read in full Jan. 6, the day after John Boehner, R-Ohio, is sworn in as House speaker.

"We always hear members of Congress talking about swearing an oath to represent their constituents when in reality the only oath we take is to the Constitution," Boehner said in the fall. "We pledge 'to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.' No more, no less."

The House Historian's Office has no record of the Constitution being read aloud on the House floor.

"That's pretty extraordinary," said Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. "It shows the extraordinary times now. Regular people all across the country are focused on the Constitution, and the message was sent to Congress we want them to do the same."

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