The Download: Whose Constitution?

It couldn’t be termed a constitutional crisis but the decision by the new Republican-controlled House to read the Constitution into the Congressional Record was as much hysterical as historical.

In a nod to the Tea Party, the new House rules require a constitutional rationale for any bill introduced in the House and to emphasize the point, House member each read a section of the document into the record, the first time it has ever been done although it as been appended to the record twice before. But it didn’t go off without a hitch and it could portend the looming partisan battles for the next two years.

It started with a challenge by Democrats as to which version of the Constitution would be used, the original labeling slaves as three-fifths of a person or a more sanitized version that excised all the bad stuff such as slavery, Prohibition and the like.

One of the more ironic (some would say Keystone Kop-like) moments came when one of the freshman Republicans swept in on the Tea Party tsunami, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania, read his lines – even though he had not been officially sworn in. A constitutional no-no.

When the section regarding only natural-born citizens being eligible to become president was read, an apparent birther protester loudly shouted “except Obama” and had to be removed. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., of Illinois, protested the version that was selected to read, saying Republicans were “whitewashing” history.

GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia was disappointed he could not read the 14th amendment regarding citizenship, which he says would highlight the problem of so-called “anchor babies” of illegal immigrants. But reports said Democrats applauded the reading of the 14th amendment while many Republicans sat silently, which Adam White at the Weekly Standard says is too bad because Republicans were the key to its passage. He says misdirected liberal judges are the ones who have taken it astray.

But it seems the fight from here to the end of this session will be whose interpretation of Congress’ power, defined in this intentionally vague summation from Article 1 of the Constitution, will rule: Congress shall “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Let the games begin.

                                                                                                                                                                                    –JACK SULLIVAN

PATRICK INAUGURAL

In a more subdued manner than four years ago, befitting the tough times, Gov. Deval Patrick took the oath as governor yesterday, vowing to make the hard choices necessary to keep the American Dream alive for state residents.  The Globe‘s Scot Lehigh called his address “vague and generic,” reserving his praise for House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who outlined very specific goals after being reelected by House members a day earlier. The Herald sees the governor playing it simple, shying away from legislative battles to focus on education, health care, business development and youth violence. However, medical malpractice lawyers are cool to the governor’s talk of overhauling state malpractice laws. The Salem News says Patrick’s speech highlights hope rather than the pain ahead. “With the wind at his back,” Gov. Deval Patrick goes into his second term with significant strengths, a Metro West Daily News editorial argues. WBUR says Patrick opts for less ceremony and a more sober tone. Patrick advisor Doug Rubin and Republican political consultant Todd Domke look ahead to the governor’s second term with Jim Braude

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy, the chief executive at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says he is resigning, the Globe reports.

BEACON HILL  

The Globe editorial page is now marching in lockstep with the free-market-oriented Pioneer Institute on the issue of privatization of state services: The paper today calls for repeal of the 1993 Pacheco Law, which stopped most privatization efforts in their tracks.

Former governor Paul Cellucci disclosed that he is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

Berkshire Eagle editorial calls Patrick’s decision to let former state film office director Nick Paleologos go “puzzling” and labels moves to reduce film tax credits “”shortsighted.” 

CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan looks at the clash between policy and politics at the state’s Veterans’ Services office. 

PAROLE

Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin calls on Gov. Patrick to sack the entire parole board, the Lowell Sun reports

Democratic state Sen. Steve Baddour joins Beacon Hill Republicans in calling for the resignation of everybody on the state parole board. The board, meanwhile, has suspended inmate releases, pending a review of the decision that freed Dominic Cinelli, the career criminal who gunned down a Woburn cop two weeks ago. 

WILKERSON 

Dianne Wilkerson, the former state senator who took $23,500 in bribes, gets 42 months in Danbury. After her sentencing, she alleges the government’s cooperating witness, Ron Wilburn, was at the center of a drug-running, money-laundering criminal enterprise in Roxbury, and that federal prosecutors looked past all that because they wanted to take her down. Not that she doesn’t take responsibility for her crimes, mind you. The Dorchester Reporter has the video.

WBUR notes Wilkerson was contrite before US District Judge Douglas Woodlock but not outside in front of reporters. 

MUNICIPAL  

Beverly’s school superintendent says a $400,000 deficit may require mid-year layoffs, the Salem News reports. 

The Salem News says it’s not unreasonable to require parents to show up at a school meeting to discuss drug and alcohol abuse. 

A judge in Lawrence rejects a bid for a restraining order against Mayor William Lantigua, saying being cursed and given the finger by the mayor does not constitute harassment, the Eagle-Tribune reports. 

City inspectors in Lynn ticketed more than 170 properties between Sunday and Wednesday for failing to clear snow from walkways, according to a story in the Item. 

A rash of violence spurs Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch to ask the city council for another $100,000 for the police department. 

Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto says his decision on whether or not to run for a fifth two-year termwill based on personal, not political, considerations.

An investigation has determined a fire in Taunton City Hall last summer was arson, the Herald News reports. 

WASHINGTON  

The federal government is lowering the recommended limit for fluoride in water, NECN reports

The end is nigh: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warns of “catastrophic consequences that could last for decades” if Congress does not raise the federal debt ceiling in the coming months.

Barney Frank tells a gang of camera-wielding youths that he’s old and tired and only still serving in Congress out of a sense of obligation toward this great nation of ours.

President Barack Obama’s latest move to the center alarms supporters on the left.

THE STATES  

Republican governors are seeking ways to slash their Medicaid budgets, the Wall Street Journal reports

TRANSPORTATION 

State officials are assessing what to do about the constantly crumbling Casey Overpass in the Forest Hills area of Boston.  One option being considered: tear it down and rejigger surface roads in the area rather than rebuild the hulking byway. 

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The Army Corps of Engineers issues its permit for Cape Wind.

TOURISM

The Mayflower II – the replica of the boat that started it all, at least in the minds of European descendants – has left its berth in Plymouth Harbor and is in Fairhaven getting a facelift.