WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On January 9, House Members took turns reciting portions of the Constitution aloud and concluded the reading less than an hour and a half later. In the article "Boehner's Constitution Read Should Only be a Beginning" on January 20 in The Hill, former White House and congressional senior staff Robert Weiner and policy analyst Autumn Kelly write that, "No matter which side of the political equation people are on, all should read it. Pretty, Glossy copies are available at the Capital Visitor's Center for only $1."
Every piece of legislation must have constitutional authority and the authors assert that with just a short read, "All can be armed for the discussion, instead of foggy-eyed and thinking the discussion is only for the cognoscenti."
Weiner and Kelly point out, "There is no benefit to the American electorate to be unfamiliar with the document. Even a quick read-taking no more than two hours even if you underline and circle on it-will relieve preconceived notions of the document's daunting nature."
Weiner and Kelly trace the Constitution reading started by Speaker of the House John Boehner in response to Tea Party requests in 2011, but Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), currently Chair of the Judiciary Committee, also pushed for it. They quote Goodlatte, who said back in January 2011, "There has been a great debate about the expansion of the federal government, and lots of my constituents have said that Congress has gone beyond its powers granted in the Constitution."
However, Weiner and Kelly write, "The read can take people in either direction."
Weiner and Kelly use the Voting Rights Act as an example. They quote that back in 2013, before section 4b was struck down as unconstitutional, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, "This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress."
However, Weiner and Kelly assert, "With a glimpse at the Constitution itself, it seems that the Justice is mistaken. The 15th Amendment reads, "The right of citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any state...." followed by, "The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
They add, "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg must have looked at her Constitution pamphlet because, when we asked her if Congress has the power to enact and amend the Voting Rights Act, she bluntly responded, "Yes, it's there in the 14th and 15th Amendments. Justice Scalia may not like it, but it's there. And, maybe, Goodlatte should take a refresher of his own advice to read it."
Weiner and Kelly report that at former House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Portrait Unveiling earlier this month, "Attorney General Eric Holder said, 'We will,' when we asked him about the Justice Department continuing the fight against voter suppression following his pending resignation. The new great movie Selma ticks off the provisions of the Voting Rights Act needed in 1965-and by inference, now."
The authors also use the 2nd Amendment as an example and state that it is readable, "despite so many protestations of its 'complicated' provisions that supposedly protect unfettered gun possession rights. People can read for themselves and note that the amendment begins with a modifier, 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state...' If an individual is not in the militia (arguably the military or the National Guard), what is the right to bear arms?"
Weiner and Kelly contend, "The discussion should begin with the framework as defined, not what lawyers and politicians want it to be. Asserting that restrictions on firearm possession are unconstitutional is just not true, especially when the preamble of the Constitution states that the document is premised to 'promote the general welfare.'"
They emphasize that "People should read the provisions to make up their own minds... it only takes a few seconds." Weiner and Kelly believe an informed electorate would create a more productive, representative government and say "citizens will be informed instead of afraid of their laws-and their lawmakers."
The authors conclude, "Constitutional literacy will eliminate grounds to misinterpret, undermine or plainly ignore the words and powers the Constitution grants. You don't have to be a Supreme Court Justice to know what's in it."
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and was senior staff for Reps. John Conyers Jr., Charles B Rangel, Claude Pepper and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Autumn Kelly is a senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
Contact: Bob Weiner/Autumn Kelly 301-283-0821 cell 202-306-1200 [email protected]
SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change