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Earlier this week, newly elected Speaker of the House John Boehner administered the oath of office to the Members of the 112th Congress. I, along with my colleagues from all across this country joined together in raising our right hands and pledging to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. This is a sacred oath required by the Constitution itself. Despite the fact that the Congress is charged with upholding the Constitution and every two years, at the start of the new Congress, we publically declare to do so, I recently discovered that the U.S. Constitution has never been read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.
One of the resounding themes I have heard from my constituents here in the 6th District of Virginia is that Congress should adhere to the Constitution and the finite list of powers it granted to the federal government. This is a principle that has resonated across this entire country and so in the days leading up to the start of the 112th Congress, the House Republican Leadership released the House Rules for the new Congress, which showed a renewed commitment to the text of the Constitution. In addition to requiring all Members of the House to submit a formal statement pointing to the exact Constitutional provision that authorizes each bill they introduce, the rules included my recommendation that the U.S. Constitution be read aloud on the House Floor during the first week of the new Congress.
So on the second day of the 112th Congress I was proud to lead 137 bipartisan Members of the House of Representatives in demonstrating our commitment to hold true to the fundamental principles upon which this country was founded. Nearly one third of the House of Representatives took part in the first ever reading of the Constitution on the House Floor. For almost two hours Republicans and Democrats came together on the House Floor as Americans and respectfully took turns reading the articles and amendments that make up our great Constitution. The Speaker of the House, Minority Leader, Majority Leader, Minority Whip and Majority Whip spoke first while rank and file Members filled the seats surrounding the center aisle awaiting their turn to read. I had the distinct privilege to read aloud the 10th Amendment to the Constitution which preserves the rights of the states and individuals.
This historic and symbolic reading of the Constitution was long overdue and shows that the new majority in the House of Representatives truly is dedicated to focusing on our Constitution and the principles for which it stands. As the written expression of the consent the American people gave to their government – a consent with restrictions and boundaries – the public reading of the Constitution will set the tone for the 112th Congress.