Republicans start with reading the US Constitution

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WASHINGTON - Republicans newly in charge of the US House of Representatives Thursday began their term by directing a reading of the US Constitution for the first time in the chamber’s history.

The ceremony, in which members of the 435-seat House took turns reading sections of the US’ founding legislative document, marked a symbolic nod by Republicans to the conservative Tea Party movement that helped them win the November congressional elections.

“We hope this will inspire many more Americans to read the Constitution,” said Bob Goodlatte, a Republican congressman from Virginia who directed the effort.

The reading was meant to be a bipartisan affair, but controversy was already in the air before the ceremony even began. Some African-American lawmakers complained that the House was leaving out articles of the constitution that had been replaced by later amendments.

That meant, for example, that an original article referring to black slaves as 3/5 of a person for tax purposes, would not be read. The paragraph was amended in 1868 after a civil war between the North and South over the abolishment of slavery.

“Many of us don’t want that to be lost in the reading of our sacred document,” Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. said ahead of the reading. “It is of consequence to who we are.”

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