For 66 minutes Tuesday morning, lawmakers read the U.S. Constitution aloud for just the second time ever in the House chamber.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the newly-minted House Judiciary chairman who spearheaded the reading, called the event “historic.”
“We also hope that this will demonstrate to the American people that the House of Representatives is dedicated to the Constitution and the system it establishes for limited government and the protection of individual liberty,” Goodlatte, R-Va., said as he prepared to begin with a reading of the Preamble.
The rights and power established by the Constitution have been widely cited as the ideological backbone of such conservative movements as the Tea Party.
The sections were read on a first-come, first-serve basis, with some members allowed the special privilege of speaking out of order.
Embarking on his 14th term, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., an American civil rights icon, read the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and was met with applause from fellow House members.
A topic of debate both on Capitol Hill and at the White House, the Second Amendment, establishing the right to bear arms, was read by Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan. He also read the First and Third Amendments.
The first and only other time the Constitution was read aloud in the House was in January 2011, when Republicans took control of the lower chamber. Both Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. D- Calif., read portions in 2011, but only Pelosi took part this time around.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, narrated the 22nd Amendment, establishing presidential term limits, the same amendment that Rep. Jose Serano, D-N.Y., is attempting to repeal through legislation introduced earlier this year.
While some have criticized Congress for wasting valuable time when the House is in session, the Republican-organized reading even drew praise from Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who called the bipartisan display a “good thing.”
“I don’t want to call it a filler,” Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters at pen and pad briefing following the reading. “It’s not a bad thing.”
Wrapping up at around 11 am, Goodlatte thanked participants saying that they “ran out of Constitution before they ran out of readers.”