Constitutional Reading in the House: Why not the Unabridged Version? Why the Empty Chamber?

By T. CHRISTOPHER, Republican Redefined

I am sure you have heard by now that the new Republican Majority in the House of Representatives kicked off the new session of Congress with a reading of the United States Constitution. The decision to do so ruffled a few feathers on the Left – I guess they have a problem with “reading” anything presented in that Body, but the endeavor went off in spite of their objections all the same. Republicans and Democrats rotated in a first come first served fashion and it was a rather noble effort. Sure, it was a little gimmicky and a lot of show, but what better way to start off a session of Congress than reading the Document that gives them the right to take their seats? I think none and I think it should become a tradition for every session that follows this one.

That is also why I was deeply troubled while watching the reading of our Founding Document in this “The People’s House.” As it streamed the video live online, I flipped between Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on the television only to find that half of the guests were “supposed” to be in the Chamber for the reading. What’s the point of reading the thing if everyone flocks to a camera mid-recitation? Now don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that decorum does not typically require that representatives remain seated or even present during House discussion and debate, but seriously? Skipping out on the reading of the Constitution? Holding pressers and giving interviews about how “historic” the moment was instead of taking part in said moment? You’ve gotta be kidding me!

I was also particularly perplexed by the fact that the Constitution was not read in whole. The decision to play revisionist historian in the name of political correctness is one that I will truly never understand. I “get” that reading language like that enumerated in the 3/5 Clause is a somewhat sensitive subject to some and would be political suicide to the unfortunate soul randomly selected to read it, but isn’t ignoring our past akin to throwing a rug over a great stain in our nation’s history? And more importantly, does it not also do an injustice to the Document which inevitably corrected said shortcoming?

If our Constitution is to be a “living document” it is so because of the Amendment process. The 13th and 14th Amendments righted the wrongs of the original document and when read without the original content lose a great deal of meaning and context. Additionally, ignoring the fact that our Constitution is amended in this process wastes a great opportunity to remind the American People that the Constitutional Amendment – not legislative fiat – is the only way that this government was ever intended to be fundamentally transformed or altered?

Another example of having a golden opportunity to score one for the Right and then fumbling on the 5…


I came across this piece and thought it rather insightful as to the filtering process enacted today… even if its overall message is rather misguided:

Huck Finning the Constitution (Adam Serwer Washington Post /Plum Line)

Earlier this week, there was an uproar over a publisher’s plans to release an edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that would replace the N-word with the word “slave” in order to make the book more “appropriate” for schoolchildren. This kind of political correctness offers no justice to the descendants of slaves — it merely papers over a terrible ugliness that is an essential part of American history.

Republicans, intending to make a big symbolic show of their reading of the Constitution, have now taken a similarly sanitized approach to our founding document. Yesterday they announced that they will be leaving out the superceded text in their reading of the Constitution on the House floor this morning, avoiding the awkwardness of having to read aloud the “three fifths compromise,” which counted slaves as only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and apportionment.
And this from the Daily Caller (Chris Moody):

Instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members will read an “amended version” that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part will allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.

“We’re reading the amended version with all amendments that are currently part of the Constitution,” said Kathryn Rexrode, a spokesman for Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who spearheaded the reading. “It will not include any amendments that were in the original but later amended.”

The Constitution contains nine parts that were later changed — including an entire amendment, the 18th, which banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol — which will be left out of Thursday’s reading. The omitted sections, which do not apply to the 112th Congress, include the so-called “three-fifths clause,” the election of senators by state legislatures and the original process outlined for electing the vice president.

“We certainly have made changes to the Constitution, amendments to the Constitution that have changed the original writings of the Constitution in a number of respects,” Goodlatte said Tuesday during an interview on MSNBC. “In fact, when we read the Constitution, we will omit those portions that have been deleted by subsequent amendments that were adopted over time.”

Maybe they would have realized how ridiculous this exercise truly was if they would have actually stuck around for the reading.


  1. The old language that has been amended is superceded by the new language. In other words, the old text is no longer law, nor part of the Constitution.

  2. Yeah yeah I get that. I'm pretty sure they told me that law school week one day one. I think you're missing the point I was making her but thanks for the clarification on the legal history. This was a teachable moment for the Left to remind them that if this Document is meant to be "living" it is meant to be so through the amendment process and it was a teachable moment unfortunately lost.

  3. I agree with you RR, all show with no substance. Hope it isn't a sign of what the 112th will be, but probably is.


Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. Comments that contain cursing or insults and those failing to add to the discussion will be summarily deleted.