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The Read the Constitution Bill

August 28, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

Like the ducks that fill McPherson Square in their trip down south for the winter, there are a number of bills that are introduced in every Congress as though they were simply part of the cyclical nature of the institution. The most famous of these is the national health care bill sponsored every Congress by Rep. John Dingell which always bears the bill number H.R. 15. A recent entrant into the perennial bill category is one introduced by Rep. Michael Conaway that would require every congressman to read the Constitution at the beginning of each Congress.

I say recent entrant as Rep. Conaway has yet to reintroduce the bill for the 111th Congress. In the 110th Congress, the bill held the number H. Res. 1480 and was known by the unwieldy acronym, the AMERICA resolution (that’s A Modest Effort to Read and Instill the Constitution Again). The resolution requires members of Congress to submit certifications that they have read and understood the Constitution at the beginning of every Congress.

Rep. Conaway’s bill came out of a valid concern that most citizens do not know what is in the Constitution. (This reminds me of my 1976 edition of the Declaration of Independence, which includes an introduction where people on the street were asked to identify the document and say if they would sign it or not. Most people had no idea what it was and many found it to be too liberal and “communistic”.) I’m not sure if Conaway’s concerns about the education of general public are best served by requiring some the better educated citizens — members of Congress — to read a document that they have dozens of lying around in their offices.

Writing this post did give me a chance to re-read the Constitution and reminded me of which amendments I should not mix together — or do so with great care. These include mixing my 21st amendment rights with either my 1st or 2nd amendment rights. Some sage advice, just in time for the weekend.

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