(Paul Jacob/Common Sense) – Never has the Constitution been read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. And, boy, does our political situation show it.
When the 112th Congress convenes this week, the law of the land — the limited, enumerated powers granted to the federal government by “We the People” in this 223-year old document — will for the first time be spoken aloud for all honorables to hear. It’s a quick read, less than 5,000 words, and presumably cameras will be rolling, so we’ll know if any elected representative sticks finger into ear during the recitation.
A hat-tip to the Tea Party movement, this reading of the Constitution is a great way to remind our legislators that such a document actually exists.
Even better, a new rule will be proposed requiring every piece of legislation to have affixed a citation “where in the Constitution Congress is empowered to enact such legislation.”
Sure, Washington pundits have mocked this newborn constitutionalism, crying “gimmick!” One history professor called it “entirely cosmetic.” Tea Party activists are skeptical, too. As they should be.
Neither reading the Constitution nor declaring the constitutional authority for legislation amounts to magic. But, with a political process in which politicians rarely recognize any limits to their wizardry, a requirement that Congress specifically pay attention to whether its actions are permitted by the Constitution is, well, really good.
Will it lead to Congress actually abiding by the limits of our Constitution? It certainly couldn’t hurt.