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House to Read Constitution Friday, Pending Rules Passage

Goodlatte led previous readings of the Constitution on the House floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the third time in the history of the House, members of Congress are poised to read the Constitution on the House floor.  

The final provision of a draft of the House rules, which members are expected to vote on on Tuesday, allows the speaker to recognize a member of Congress for the reading of the Constitution on any legislative day before Jan. 16. According to House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., if the rules are adopted, the reading will take place Friday. The tradition began in 2011, when members read the Constitution at the start of the 112th Congress. The nation’s founding document was read once again when the 113th Congress began. In past readings, members from both parties have taken turns reading sections of the Constitution.  

Goodlatte was instrumental in establishing the first reading and once again worked to ensure that the tradition would continue. "Yes I think it's a very important thing," he told CQ Roll Call as he walked to a House GOP conference meeting on Monday evening. "I look forward to having it. It's going to be done on Friday."  

In the past, lawmakers read the amended version of the Constitution, which excluded provisions regarding slavery. The decision to read the amended Constitution raised questions from some Democrats, who argued against excluding such key parts of U.S. history. Goodlatte said the same version will be read this time around.  

"It will be the Constitution as it exists currently under law," said Goodlatte. "In other words, anything that is no longer part of the Constitution won't be read."  

Also, compared to the first reading in the 112th Congress, fewer members participated in the reading in the 113th Congress. Asked if there was an effort to boost participation this year, Goodlatte responded, "We're going to encourage members to participate."  

Related: Constitutional Reading Draws Bipartisan Participation  The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.