“We are not the oldest country in the world, but our written Constitution has endured longer than that of any other people. That fact is worth not only celebrating, but pondering.
This is especially important for members of Congress. As these letters have had occasion to observe, Congress is at the very heart of our experiment in constitutional self-government. In the Constitution, Congress comes first: it is Article I. Congress holds the law-making power without which the president has much less to do and the federal courts nothing at all.
“In fact, of all the branches, Congress has the primary authority to interpret the Constitution. Like the president or the Supreme Court, Congress receives its power from the Constitution. Just as the president has no authority to act against the Constitution, you in Congress have no authority to pass legislation that violates it. So – as the 112th Congress has distinguished itself by recognizing – every time you consider a bill, the first question you must ask yourself is not: “Do my constituents like it?” or even “Is it a good idea?” but “Is this Constitutional?” That’s not a matter of partisan politics; it’s a matter of legitimate authority.
“That constitutional deliberation must continue in Congress if we are going to restore the American experiment in self-government. For it is in Congress where the American people most fully govern themselves: where the common rights and responsibilities of the American people are submitted to law, and where the variety of the legitimate interests of the American people are most fully represented. When people’s representatives engage in constitutional deliberation, the American people engage in it too.”