Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Celebrating the 221st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America, and for other purposes.

Sep 17, 2008
Floor Speech


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   Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, this is a very important piece of legislation because we not only recognize the Constitution of the United States, but we do what President Clinton said just a few weeks ago in Denver, and that is, that we will be known by the power of our example, rather than the example of our power. This is what makes America the greatest country in the world.

   Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate both the signing of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of the document that each of us pledge to uphold and defend when we take our oath of office.

   And I am proud to wear this every day by my heart, as with our great patriarch in the Senate, Senator Byrd.

   Alexander Hamilton once said, ``The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.''

   The Constitution upholds our rights. We are given these rights by our Maker. That's what makes us all equal at birth, regardless of our religious background, our ethnicity or anything.

   Hamilton understood that the rights our founders enshrined in the construction come not from men but from God. That's what makes us all equal, not the Constitution.

   Today, 221 years after its signing, public school students across the country will be studying the history of the Constitution. They will learn about James Madison, the father of the Constitution and his vision for the Federal Government. They will learn about the separation of powers into a legislative branch, and executive and judiciary branches, and they will learn about the checks and balances designed to keep one of those departments, one of those areas, those branches from growing too powerful.

   Hear me, Mr. Speaker. These are the enduring principles that have stood the test of time. They've become the inspiration and the basis for the governments of countless countries around the globe.

   Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if, on this day when we celebrate this Constitution, I did not discuss the willful disregard for the fundamental principles of our Republic that we have seen over the last 8 years.

   Today we have an executive that has disregarded the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution that have sustained our government for the past two centuries. They have shown complete contempt for article I, section 8, which defines the powers of the Congress in their management of the war and of our economy. I am sad to say that we all have allowed this power to be ceded, both sides of the aisle. Neither party has been a sentinel of our precious Constitution.

   We have seen nothing but obstruction in our attempts to perform meaningful oversight of our Federal Government.

   The administration's secrecy and unwillingness to cooperate with the Congress' constitutionally mandated oversight powers have reached the point of

   ridiculousness. We have actually had to sue the Federal Government--hear this--the Congress had to sue the Federal Government because they refused to comply with duly authorized subpoenas. This is not a respect of the Constitution. This is a disregard.

   The fourth amendment bans ``cruel and unusual punishment'' and the fourteenth guarantees ``due process under the law.'' Sadly, America is now seen as a country that will hold detainees indefinitely and torture them without bringing charges.

   The Constitution prohibits ``unreasonable searches and seizures,'' yet we do know that this administration established a program to secretly wiretap on Americans who did no harm to their country, who love their country.

   Today, the Congress honors the Constitution. Over the past 8 years, it seems like the Executive has forgotten even its existence. This is not hyperbole. This is documented. The redactive administration has corrupted the ideals of our forefathers. They fondled fear to cover up their addiction to secrecy and will be held accountable soon.

   The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

   Ms. McCOLLUM of Minnesota. I yield the gentleman an additional 1 minute.

   Mr. PASCRELL. The Constitution belongs to neither political party, neither party, nor is it a document to be possessed solely by the President's attorneys. The most egregious apologists of the constitutional interpretation are those down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue who thought it was the throne they were defending.

   The Constitution truly completed our separation from Great Britain, thank God. We are no longer their possession, nor are we the possession of the executive branch of government. We will be known by the power of our example, and not the example of our power.

   I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.