US & Canada

US Constitution read aloud in House of Representatives

darrell issa holding the us constitution
Image caption Republican Darrell Issa proudly displayed a copy of the constitution on Wednesday

Republicans have opened the second day of their rule in the House of Representatives with a full reading of the US Constitution, the first time the entire document has been read aloud in Congress.

The reading was prompted in part by Tea Party activists concerned that the document has been somewhat sidelined.

Representatives from both parties took turns reading different sections.

Later the house will consider a bill to cut members' spending.

Republicans are proposing a 5% cut to the budgets of all members, leadership offices and committees. They estimate this will save $35m (£23m) in 2011.

The reading of the constitution is expected to take almost two hours. New speaker John Boehner began the proceedings, followed by outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans chose to read an amended constitution rather than the original which refers, among other things, to slaves being worth three-fifths of a person.

The BBC's Katie Connolly, in Washington, says that preaching fidelity to the Constitution has become the cornerstone of the Tea Party movement.

It is a near requirement for Republicans to call themselves "strict constitutionalists" - shorthand for conservative interpretations of the document - in order to get elected.

But the interpretation of several key articles of the constitution - such as the commerce clause and the right to bear arms - are hotly contested by politicians of different political stripes, meaning the constitution can often be as confounding as it is clarifying in political debates, our correspondent says.

The constitution was ratified in 1788 when the US consisted of just 13 states and doesn't directly address many of today's significant political issues.

It is both the shortest and oldest constitution of any of the world's major democracies.

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