Constitution Reading Sparks Political Wrangling
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
We're going to spend the next few minutes now on the Constitution. Republicans built their new majority in the House of Representatives thanks, in large part, to the passion of the Tea Party movement. And one of the central tenants of that movement is that the government has lost its way, and must return to the country's founding principles.
BLOCK: To underline that idea, the new House Republican leadership has mandated that every bill must include a statement citing its specific constitutional authority. More on that in just a moment.
But first, in a symbolic move today, House members from both parties read the Constitution aloud on the House floor. New House Speaker John Boehner started things off.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union...
NORRIS: And 84 minutes later, Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher finished with Amendment 27.
Representative STEPHEN FINCHER (Republican, Tennessee): No law varying the compensation for the services of the senators and representatives shall take effect until an election of representatives shall have intervened.
BLOCK: In between, we were reminded that even the United States of America comes with operating instructions - a document that allows for change when necessary. Here's Democrat John Lewis of Georgia.
Representative JOHN LEWIS (Democrat, Georgia): Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
NORRIS: Today's reading did not include the repealed 18th Amendment, which banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol. Also, there was no mention from Article 1, Section 2 of non-free people - presumably slaves -counting as three-fifths of a person.
While the reading was every bit as predictable and dry as you might expect, there was one lively moment as New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone read Article 2, Section 1.
Representative FRANK PALLONE (Democrat, New Jersey): No person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to be the office of president. Neither shall...
Unidentified Woman: Except Obama. Except Obama.
NORRIS: That's a woman shouting from the public gallery: Except Obama. In accordance with the law, she was placed under arrest.
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