New Congress to read Constitution from House floor

Chris Moody

Continuing a new tradition that began with the 112th Congress two years ago, House Republicans are again spearheading a plan to read the Constitution aloud from the chamber floor as one of the first acts of the new class.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte—the originator of the idea—will begin reading from the Constitution, and House members will then take turns until the end. When it was first done in 2011, the exercise took about an hour and a half.

But like most things in Washington, controversy was an essential part of what should have been a smooth and bipartisan event. Before the reading in 2011, a debate erupted about whether the members should read the entirety of the Constitution—including parts that have since been struck down—or an amended version that leaves out references to alcohol prohibition and the "three-fifths clause" for black slaves.

Ultimately, am amended version was read. During that reading, one of the members accidentally left out Section 4 of Article IV and a portion of Article V due to sloppy page turning. The omitted portions were later entered into the official congressional record. At one point, when the member reading at the time said "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President," a woman in the public gallery shouted "Except Obama!" and was removed from the chamber.

This year, House members will again read the version, provided by the Government Printing Office, that excludes superseded portions of the founding document.