Do you swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter — so help you God?”
Each member of Congress — newly elected or reelected — must solemnly swear allegiance to the above oath at the beginning of each two-year session of Congress. Many do so in robotic fashion, placing as much value on the solemn words of the oath as would an actual robot. Some others possess varying degrees of loyalty to and awareness about the Constitution. But all are encouraged to look to their party’s leaders, not to the document itself, for guidelines about how they should vote on proposed legislation.
In January 1993, during his very first day as a member of Congress, newly elected Congressman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) somewhat angrily recounted his experience when he stood to swear the oath with his colleagues. He first told of his surge of pride and patriotism as he was about to make the solemn pledge. Immediately, however, he heard a colleague propose granting full congressional voting privileges to the delegates from Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Each of those areas is a part of the United States, but not a state. The Constitution grants full voting rights only to elected members from “states.” The regions named above are not and never have been states.
Pombo’s colleague who made the proposal said it addressed a matter of “fairness, not constitutionality.” There’s no mention of “fairness” in the oath or in the Constitution itself. But “constitutionality” should be foremost in the considerations of any congressman. The wish to grant full voting privileges to delegates from non-states didn’t get very far. But Pombo admitted to experiencing a rather rude awakening about the lack of respect for the Constitution.