HNN Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the first full day of the 112th Congress, U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, D-WV, commended the public reading of the U.S. Constitution on the Floor of the House, and expressed his hope that the new Congress would live up to the example and the expectations of the Constitutional Framers.

“Just yesterday, the Members of this body took an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States…without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,’” said Rahall. “That oath requires us to do much more than simply read the Constitution; it requires us to study it, to strive to understand it, and to guard our duties under it as the People’s representatives.”

Rahall said that the Constitution requires Members of Congress to exercise the system of checks and balances.

“I am reminded of Senator Byrd, perhaps the greatest defender of the Constitution in our time.   He would be the first to underscore that the Constitution places in the hands of the Congress the power of the purse and how that power enables the Congress – the People’s Branch – to check an overzealous President.   He would be chagrined at the attitude toward earmarks of the new Majority in this House, and he would tell us that the authority to make those spending decisions on behalf of the People is something that no Member of Congress has the right to cede to any other Branch.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what the new Majority proposes we do, and in so doing, they are undermining that very system that protects the People’s rights,” said Rahall.

Rahall noted that the Framers gave the Congress the right and responsibility to interpret the Constitution and expected that the Members would draw on their own experiences to do so.

“The Framers expected the Members of the Legislative Branch to use their own judgment to interpret the Constitution and not merely to follow the readings of the Judicial Branch or the Executive Branch.   They also expected that Members of Congress would be influenced by their own experiences in their view of the wording of our Founding document, just as the Framers, themselves, had diverse and often strongly conflicting opinions about what should be contained within it.  That these differing viewpoints could all be accommodated in one document is one of the great wonders of the Constitution and part of what has caused it to be insightfully labeled a ‘living document,’” said Rahall.

Looking ahead, Rahall expressed his hope that the Members of the  House and Senate might be inspired by the Framers and their ability to accept their differing opinions as they joined to endorse the final document and the form of government that it instituted.

“The Framers came together at a tumultuous time in our Nations’ history.  The stakes of their endeavor were incredibly high, and their debates were often heated and contentious.  Many found it difficult to compromise, believing that their own opinions, as Benjamin Franklin observed at the time, were infallible.  But in the end, though they may have had their own personal reservations, they joined in support of the Constitution.  I would hope that the Members of the 112th Congress can, at least from time to time, follow the example of our Framers and set aside their own personal passions and prejudices to achieve great things for this Nation,” Rahall said.