If you plan to follow along with your own copy during Thursday’s House floor reading of the U.S. Constitution, you might notice that some members reading aloud are skipping parts of the original document.
Instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members will read an “amended version” that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part will allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.
“We’re reading the amended version with all amendments that are currently part of the Constitution,” said Kathryn Rexrode, a spokesman for Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who spearheaded the reading. “It will not include any amendments that were in the original but later amended.”
The Constitution contains nine parts that were later changed — including an entire amendment, the 18th, which banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol — which will be left out of Thursday’s reading. The omitted sections, which do not apply to the 112th Congress, include the so-called “three-fifths clause,” the election of senators by state legislatures and the original process outlined for electing the vice president.
“We certainly have made changes to the Constitution, amendments to the Constitution that have changed the original writings of the Constitution in a number of respects,” Goodlatte said Tuesday during an interview on MSNBC. “In fact, when we read the Constitution, we will omit those portions that have been deleted by subsequent amendments that were adopted over time.”
Goodlatte will begin the reading, and both Republican and Democrats have been invited to take turns reading portions of the document. The reading is expected to take about two hours.
Thursday’s event will be the first time the Constitution has ever been read at such a length on the House floor.