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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. My amendment seeks to address a problem we face here in the legislative branch: the congressional supply of pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence is exhausted.

My amendment reduces and then reinserts $218,379 from the budget for the Government Printing Office to address this shortage so that they can provide these pocket Constitutions and Declarations. It is the exact cost of the last printing of the pocket version of the Constitution.

But the money is not the root of the problem. The funding exists to print more pocket Constitutions today or tomorrow. What is lacking is the authority for the Government Printing Office to do so. The approval of this amendment appears to be the best parliamentary approach that we have right now to solve this immediate problem.

Last week, as I prepared to visit a school in New Jersey where we would hold a ceremony of oath of citizenship for new citizens, I asked my staff to make sure we had pocket Constitutions to distribute to them. I always carry one. I find many of my constituents want to as well. When I discovered that the supply was exhausted and none have been printed for this Congress, I thought we should address that problem now. Except for the dozens of copies that might be on a shelf in Members' offices or the few that are in a bag in the back of my station wagon, Members find that they cannot get these pocket Constitutions for love nor money.

Everyday, like so many of my Republican and Democratic colleagues, I point to this Constitution. When I meet with students, I ask them, What is the greatest invention of humans? And they, knowing I'm a scientist, will sometimes come up with some technological answer. I would argue our greatest invention is our constitutional system of government. Our brilliant, resilient, self-correcting system of government, dreamed up in Philadelphia so many years ago, functions remarkably well over the centuries. And this simple, 45-page pocket Constitution that Members have been able to share with their constituents for generations allows everyone to understand better that brilliant system of government.

Over my time here in the House, I have eagerly distributed these pocket Constitutions to students, new citizens, and many constituents who ask for them so that they can have their own. And who better to distribute these copies than a Representative working under the authority of article I of this ingenious document.

A self-governing country works only if we citizens believe that it does. A self-governing country works only if the citizens provide the motive force for it to work. And familiarity with the copies of this ingenious, powerful, essential document provide the motivation and the mechanism for our government to work.

Since 2009, when Members of the 111th Congress each received a thousand copies of this pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Members of the House have not received any new pocket Constitutions. That means despite the fact that we began this Congress, the 112th, by reading the Constitution in this House Chamber, which I was pleased to participate in, no Member of the 112th Congress has been provided with any additional constitutions. So with no new copies of the pocket Constitution since 2009, except these few that I have here, it is long past time to fix this simple problem with this simple amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. As I said in my remarks, the problem is not money; the problem is authorization. That can be accomplished by this joint resolution from the Joint Committee on Printing to the Government Printing Office, or it could be resolved through the appropriations, as I'm attempting to do now.

And I should point out, as the gentleman refers to the other body, it is out of pride of this body that we say we will do what we should do and the Senate will do what they will do and we will try to get together to move legislation forward. It is our job here today to do what we can do and to educate the public about this ingenious system of government that has been so successful for 2 centuries. We should do this.


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