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Historical Highlights

The Oath of Office Bill

May 21, 1789
The Oath of Office Bill Image courtesy of the Library of Congress President George Washington served eight years as President of the United States.
On this date, the Oath of Office bill, the first legislative act of Congress, was signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. President George Washington signed the bill into law on June 1, 1789. The simple text read, “I, A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” The oath of office became an important aspect of the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877). Newly elected Members, especially from seceding states, had to affirm to the oath to serve in the Congress. The text of the oath has changed several times, and it is now administered en masse by the Speaker of the House on the floor on the opening day of each new Congress. Article VI of the Constitution requires all Representatives, Senators, executive officers, judicial officers, and state legislatures to affirm support for the Constitution. In cases when a House Member has an excused absence, another Member may administer the oath to them.

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Members of the House take an oath to uphold the Constitution on the House Floor on the opening day of a new Congress.

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