John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Reading the Constitution on the Metro

Posted on June 12, 2013

Usually, when I am on Metro’s escalator, I stand on the right side and fumble through my wallet as I try to find my Metro card.

This morning, I efficiently found my card before I even got to the station, which gave me a free hand to gladly accept the copy of the U.S. Constitution that was being handed out by C-Span.

Brian Lamb must be getting pretty tired of 4 AM callers from Las Vegas, who spout off about a Constitution that have never read.   I read Jefferson’s Manual of House procedure from time to time, which helpfully also includes the Constitution, but having a pocket Constitution is a real public service.

The Constitution is a living document, and it is a helpful guide to how America should be governed today.
“We the People of United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, Insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What a wonderful opening sentence to read as you getting ready to board the Metro at Capitol South, the station closest to the home of the legislative branch.   After all, the founding fathers put the Congress down first to signal the primacy of the people over the rest of the government.

Sometimes Congress doesn’t necessarily act like it is the number one dog in the government, but all of the power to make the laws starts first in the House and the Senate.  It would be helpful if they would start acting like it.

Article I starts with process:  How the bodies should operate, who is eligible to serve, when they should meet, how they get paid etc.  In section 8, some of the details of what Congress should do gets spelled out.  Interestingly, they start with the ability to raise taxes and then to borrow money, which goes to the heart of every political debate of this current Congress.    The fourth thing they talk about is the naturalization of citizens, which is a harbinger for the current immigration debate.

Section 8 also mentions the duty of Congress to establish Post Offices (at the request of Ben Franklin) and post roads (Ike would use that as an excuse to build the Interstate Highway system).    Congress seems to want to throw the Postal Service under the bus, but it seems to me that would require a Constitutional amendment.

Jefferson requested that intellectual property be protected, and this line was included:  “To Promote the Progress of the Arts, by securing the limited Times to Authors and Inventors and exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Article VI also grabbed my attention this morning:  “All debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.”   In other words, like the Lannisters, Americans always pay their debts.

The First and Second Amendments to the Constitution have gotten a workout as of late in the media, but I was struck by the Fourth Amendment this morning:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons to be seized.”

By the way, this applies to the National Security Agency.  They don’t have a right to search my Facebook page looking for things to prosecute me, unless they have a warrant.  Not that they would find anything.

The Constitution is a wonderful document, full on interesting tidbits.  I am glad I got the chance to read it on the Metro this morning.