Defending the Constitution…yes…I believe that that very phrase is somewhere in the oath of office that United States House Representatives and Senators take. Let’s see, oh yes, here it is:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
I’m sure the “So help me God” bit will be expunged someday soon.
But the reason I had to look up the congressional oath of office was prompted by a curious statement by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the nonvoting D.C. delegate to the House. I found her quote in this article by Edward Whelan about Eric Holder’s (The US Attorney General) lack of concern about the consitutionality of a bill before congress that would give the District of Columbia a voting member in the House. Of course the Constitution is clear that “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States”
However, when asked about the possible constitutional issues with the bill, Ms. Holmes had the following to say:
“I don’t think members [of the House and Senate] are in the least bit affected in their votes on the question of its constitutionality. People vote their politics in the House and in the Senate.”
To borrow a phrase used often by George Will (who has written at least one column on this issue):
Of course these shenanigan’s about giving DC voting representation were tried before back in the 70s. But at least then they tried to do it properly – in the form of a constitutional amendment. But as you can probably guess, the proposed amendment failed to be ratified.
So what should we make of the statement by Ms. Norton? I only hope that the voting members of the House and Senate take their oath a bit more seriously than Ms. Norton has been led to believe.