Barney and Henry flip casual birds at House Republicans as they exit the building. Sweet.
If the new Congress to be sworn in on Wednesday is the tea party’s cardinal achievement so far, its most symbolic achievement will come on Thursday, when the first order of business in the House will be a reading, aloud, of the Constitution. That event alone will not bring us any closer to limited government. But it will help get a debate going that for too long has been dormant.
Already, House Democrats are lining up to ridicule a closely related rule that the Republican majority has said it will adopt, requiring members to cite the specific constitutional authority for any bill they introduce. “It’s an air kiss they’re blowing to the tea party,” says Barney Frank, outgoing chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Henry Waxman, outgoing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, all but dismissed any role for Congress in assessing the constitutionality of its actions: “Whether it is constitutional or not is going to be whether the Supreme Court says it is.”