When Republicans take over the House next week, they'll christen the new session with a dramatic reading ... of the Constitution. Apparently, the 4,543-word document has never—in 221 years—been read aloud in the chamber. But the GOP is determined to center the 112th Congress around the document when it assumes the majority: The sponsor of every new piece of legislation must cite a passage from the Constitution that authorizes the proposed bill, reports the Washington Post, which refers to the changes as part of the "tea party-ization of Congress."
The Constitutional component to bill-writing is such an adjustment to the daily routine that Republican leaders distributed a five-page cheat sheet explaining how to determine a bill's constitutional authority, and have held training sessions for legislative aides. "These new rules show that Republicans are serious about respecting the Constitution," said Rep. Michele Bachmann. But not everyone is so convinced. "I think it's entirely cosmetic," said a history professor. "This is the way the establishment handles grass-roots movements." Adds a constitutional scholar, "When we actually read the Constitution as a whole, it doesn't say what the tea party folks think it says." They may be expecting a narrow states' right document; he argues it charters a "very broad federal power."