The U.S. Constitution text was read in the House of Representatives Thursday as Republicans kicked off the 112th Congress with blatant Tea Party pandering. The GOP-led sideshow was accompanied by controversy and melodrama. Republicans omitted passages of the original U.S. Constitution text, and a birther disrupted the proceedings.
Tea Party pandering on display
The reading of the U.S. Constitution text in the House was a Republican gesture to Tea Party activists who handed the party the majority in the 2010 election. The reading lasted about an hour and a half. It was a symbolic gesture to emphasize a new Republican rule requiring that all proposed bills must cite the section of U.S. Constitution text that permits them to become law. New Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, had the honor of reciting the preamble’s words:
“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Three-Fifths Clause doesn’t make the cut
Partisan bickering over the U.S. Constitution text began before it was read. Republicans insisted on deleting sections of the Constitution supplanted by amendments. One of those sections included the “Three-Fifths Clause.” The Three-Fifths Clause states slaves are only to be considered “three fifths of all other persons.” Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Ill, said “Many of us don’t want that to be lost upon reading of our sacred document.” The fact that the Three-Fifths Clause was abolished by an amendment should be considered a reminder to conservatives that the Constitution is malleable, and has evolved along with the nation.
‘Help us Jesus!’
The reading of the U.S. Constitution text was shared by both Republicans and Democrats in what may be the final bipartisan gesture in the 112th Congress. The event took a turn when Frank Pallone, D-N.J., read the section requiring the president be a “natural born citizen.” A woman in the audience shouted “Except Obama, except Obama, help us Jesus!” The woman was arrested and escorted from the chamber.