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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Reading the Constitution in the House: Which provision would *you* pick?

In yesterday's edition of Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column, which appears regularly in The Washington Post, Kamen reported on his conversations with a number of constitutional-law teachers (including me) about the provision they would want to read on the floor of the House.  Pam Karlan and Michael McConnell both zeroed in on the "no religious test" clause, which made my own request for the First Amendment's religion clauses redundant (as well as uncreative).  We also agreed that it might seem a bit unserious were I to leap for the 21st Amendment, notwithstanding that provision's many virtues.  So, I went with Article V, on the theory that -- especially given the suggestion in recent days that the Constitution's longevity might count against its relevance and / or comprehensibility -- we might all do well to remember that the Constitution itself provides a mechanism (perhaps not the most effective or efficient one, but maybe that was part of the plan), other than judicial review, for its own updating.

What provision would you pick, given the opportunity for one minute of Constitution-reading, C-Span fame, and why? 

Posted by Rick Garnett on January 5, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Permalink


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maybe Art I, Sec 8, sub 5: particularly the "regulate the Value [of money]" bit. remind them of how much authority has been delegated to the (public? private?) federal reserve.

but definitely the preamble, either sung or chanted....

Posted by: Ian Bartrum | Jan 5, 2011 4:51:17 PM

How about the Preamble (I might even sing it). It reminds us what the Constitution, and the new government it created, are designed to achieve. And to the extent this exercise is designed to remind people of the actual powers that Congress possesses (and the limitations on those powers), our understanding of "Commerce . . . among the several States" should be informed by that initial statement of principles.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jan 5, 2011 4:13:26 PM

14th Amendment, Section 1, Sentence 1: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The birthright citizenship clause is the most effective and powerful anti-poverty provision, and one of the most powerful pro-equality and pro-democracy provision in the constitution. Birthright citizenship has lifted hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of people out of poverty by allowing them to be citizens of this country. It prevents the creation of a permanent alien underclass. It fosters assimilation and a vibrant democracy that responds to the folks who live here.

Posted by: Jonathan Witmer-Rich | Jan 5, 2011 1:35:25 PM

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