It turns out my idle speculation yesterday about who would read the more unsavory bits of the Constitution on the House floor had some merit:
In consultation with the Congressional Research Service and others, the leaders of the House had decided to read a version of the Constitution that was edited to exclude those portions superseded by amendments — including amendments themselves — preventing lawmakers from having to make references to slaves, referred to in Article I, Section 2 as "three fifths of all other Persons" or to failed experiments like Prohibition. Members were not provided with the version before the reading began.
Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL) registered a complaint he expanded on later in a prepared statement, essentially arguing that the House was whitewashing history and ignoring the blood, sweat and tears paid to achieve the amendments.
The reading included a classically-ironic fail by two Republican members who need to read more Marshall McLuhan:
[O]ne new member, Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who failed to be officially sworn in Wednesday, proceeded nonetheless to participate in the reading, one of the first official acts of House members in the 112th Congress.
At the time of the oath-taking, both Mr. Fitzpatrick and Representative Pete Sessions of Texas were elsewhere, watching the proceedings on television. They raised their respective right hands as the oath was administered, but that was not enough to make them official.
Both men were sworn in for real on Thursday afternoon. But before that happened, a Rules Committee hearing had to be halted because Mr. Sessions was taking part in it, and both men had cast votes on the floor. House leaders were conferring to see what steps might need to be taken to make things right.
Ha ha ha, harmless error, right? Maybe. But this isn't the first time the GOP have run over the formalities of taking power in their mad grabs for it. A couple of years ago, GOP staffers made changes to a bill after it was passed but before it was embossed and presented to the President, which some might call a minor coup d'état if one were into calling things as they really are.
Good thing (most) of the new Representatives swore to uphold the Constitution before reciting an edited version of it. I only hope they knew the difference.
Update: Washington Post columnist David Cole imagines the Conservative Constitution:
We, the Real Americans, in order to form a more God-Fearing Union, establish Justice as we see it, Defeat Health-Care Reform, and Preserve and Protect our Property, our Guns and our Right Not to Pay Taxes, do ordain and establish this Conservative Constitution for the United States of Real America.
Article II. The President shall faithfully execute the laws, except when, as Commander in Chief, he decides he'd really rather not.
Amendment 3. The right of Corporations, Hedge Funds, Business Leaders and Lobbyists to spend endless cash on campaigns and influence-purchasing shall not be infringed. The so-called right of Unions to associate shall be denied as fundamentally un-American and contrary to the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce.