Reading the Constitution in Congress

My daughter’s 8th grade history class is studying the Constitution.  With the Republican House’s plan to inaugurate its majority by reading the Constitution aloud, I had a little talk with her about the Constitution.

Me:  Can you tell me what the Constitution is?

Daughter:  It’s a document that tells the government what to do.

Me:  That’s a good start in thinking about it.  Basically, it’s a contract between the government and the people that sets out the powers and limitations of the federal government.

Daughter:  That sounds like a good idea.

Me:  It is.  So tell me, what are you supposed to do if you don’t like a part of this contract?

Daughter:  I don’t understand.

Me:  If you don’t like part of the contract should you just ignore it?

Daughter:  No.  That’s wrong.

Me:  Should you pretend it means something different than it says?

Daughter:  You can’t do that!  (I refrained from saying here “you wanna bet?”)

Me:  Did you know that there’s a mechanism within the Constitution itself for making changes?

Daughter:  No.

Me: It’s called the Amendment process.

Daughter:  Oh, right!  I knew that.

Me:  Can you give me an example of an amendment?

Daughter:  The Bill of Rights?

Me:  That’s a very good example.  The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  How about an example of a part of the original constitution that was wrong and that got changed?

Daughter:  Slavery?

Me:  Yup.  The government used the Constitution’s own rules to change a part that wasn’t right.  Now, with all this in mind, I have a question for you.  Today marks the start of a new Congress.  The Senate is still going to have a majority of Democrats, but the House is going to have a large majority of Republicans.  Indeed, the last election saw the biggest turnover since 1938.  That means that, not only did the majority party switch as a result of the election, but it switched by huge numbers as the voters rejected the governing majority party.  The first thing the new Republican House is planning on doing is having someone read the entire Constitution.  Do you think that sounds like a silly political stunt, or a waste of time, or a good idea?

Daughter:  That sounds like a really good idea, since the Constitution tells them what they can and can’t do.

Me: I agree.  And how about this — The new Republican House has promised that every bill it writes (and a bill is what becomes a law if it gets the vote) will have at the top a statement about which Constitutional power the House believes authorizes it to pass that law.  Do you think that’s a good idea?

Daughter:  That’s a wonderful idea!

The liberal media may be outraged that the current House is going back to the seminal contract that defines its powers, duties and limitations, but at least one future voter likes the idea that her government is trying to follow the rules.