Why read the Constitution?


Every Member of Congress needs someone to read the Federal Register daily, the Congressional Record each day, and the Constitution regularly.

The Federal Register records agency actions, many of them quite obscure, but all of the agency actions that affect a member’s state or district. Sometimes an agency will try to sneak something past a member, and sometimes they’ll simply fail to notify the member of something that really deserves a lot of attention. The Congressional Record does the same thing for Congress. It’s a difficult read, but someone who knows it well can tell when conditions are ripe to get action on some measure.

Al Kamen at The Washington Post gives an object lesson on why knowledge of the Constitution is important. In this case, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Constitution experts invoked the clause that prevents a president from making recess appointments.

This may be inside baseball to most people. Kamen’s story demonstrates why a party will elect someone like Reid as their leader. He may not be as suave and funny as Jack Kennedy on camera, but he knows where the buttons are that open and close the automatic doors of power.

The detente the two sides reached over the Senate’s August break — which saw the Senate approve dozens of nominees in exchange for a no-recess-appointment pledge — is over.

That deal was reached in part because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dusted off an old weapon — the pro forma session — which would mean theoretically that the Senate would never be in recess. When both sides negotiate anew, that weapon looms large.

Turns out the pro forma session originally had nothing to do with recess appointments. It comes from Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which says neither the House nor Senate may be out for more than three days while the other body is in session, without the consent of that other body.

But neither chamber wanted to seek “permission” from the other one for anything. Bad form and all that.

Did you know what was in Article I, Section 5?

Perhaps more important, this was covered by the much-maligned-in-blogdom “Main Stream Media” (MSM). Can you find a blogger who broke this story before Kamen? I’ll wager you can’t.

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