House members read Constitution

Jan. 6, 2011 at 9:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- House Speaker John Boehner intoned, "We the people," to begin the historic reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor Thursday.

The somber reading marked the first time the Constitution was read on a congressional floor, although it has been included in the congressional record.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who spearheaded the effort to have the founding document read on the floor, managed the reading from the well, alternately recognizing members of both parties.

Several Democrats questioned whether the original language of the Constitution would be read or if amended language that deleted the original words would be read.

"We are going to read the document as amended," Goodlatte said.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., said he was concerned about the three-fifths clause, which stated a slave would count as three-fifths of a person, because "many of us don't want that to be lost."

"Given the struggle of African-Americans and women to create a more perfect document," Jackson said, the redacted language of the Constitution is "no less serious" than other portions of the Constitution.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., asked Goodlatte to explain how it was determined to read the amended version and not the original document. Goodlatte said the decision was made after consultation with the congressional research service in the Library of Congress.

"We are not reading those sections superseded by amendment," Goodlatte said.

Inslee said he wanted to be assured that the reading was not a "statement of intent, but to have a moment of comity."

As it turned out, parts of the Constitution were inadvertently left out of the reading. Article 4, Section 4, and part of Article 5, Section 1, were left out because one member turned two pages at once, Goodlatte said.

Goodlatte read the skipped sections more than 2 hours after the omission, The Hill reported.

Article 4, Section 4, states, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

The section of Article 5, Section 1, that was skipped states, "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members."

Shouting could be heard from the gallery during the reading of language concerning the presidency, and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, sitting in the chair, ordered people removed.

Under House rules adopted Wednesday, bills will be required to include the constitutional authority under which it could be enacted.

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