A Patriot’s Pause

On Thursday, as part of the new House rules package, members of the United States House of Representatives will read the United States Constitution from the House floor. This is a reflection of a call from “the genius of the American people,” as Alexander Hamilton so aptly described the American people in The Federalist, that Congress not forget the guiding principles set forth in our nation’s Constitution. After all, in a republic it is the people who rule through their representatives. Even James Madison, who believed that “Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire,” would be thrilled that Congress has taken the time out of bickering to remember the foundations of our country.

George Washington would be especially pleased. He stressed in his farewell address that Americans should not let divisiveness drive the country into demise. “The ultimate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissensions, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” What better way for Congress to unite than to honor the document (brought about by a providentially inspired unity of 13 wildly divergent states in 1787) that so aptly defines the handbook for governing and so brilliantly beholds our liberties?

This historic reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, something that was introduced by the new House Republican leadership and has never been done before, is not just for show. These new House rules have teeth: they hold proposed legislation up to the light of the Constitution, requiring that each bill or joint resolution introduced in the 112th Congress be accompanied by a “statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.”

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