The Corner

The Oath and the Constitution

It’s hard to understand objections to reading the Constitution on the House floor. After all, the lawmakers just took this oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Some liberals have given backhanded praise to the idea of reading the Constitution. Garrett Epps, for instance, says that a reading should remind members that the Constitution was “concerned with giving Congress power, not taking it away.” While it provided for a stronger central government than the Articles of Confederation, it was scarcely an open-ended invitation for Congress to do anything that it wanted. “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined,” wrote Madison in Federalist 45. “Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

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