Wikijunior:United States Charters of Freedom/Additional amendments to the United States Constitution
These are additional amendments to the Constitution added after the first ten amendments on the Bill of Rights have been ratified. There are 17 additional amendments to date, ratified from 1795 to 1992. The information on this page comes from Wikipedia's respective pages.
Amendment XI of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 1795.
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
This amendment grants states immunity to foreign suits. Although the amendment's text does not by its own terms include suits brought by a citizen against his own state, the Supreme Court has consistently held that a broader principle of state sovereign immunity inheres in Amendment XI. The dissenting view, which has never garnered more than four justices' support, is that the states surrendered their sovereign immunity when they ratified the Constitution (and certainly when they ratified the Amendment XIV), and that Amendment XI should therefore be read narrowly as a constitutional limitation on the diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts.
Amendment XI confers on non-consenting states immunity from suit for money damages or other equitable relief. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has held that Congress may abrogate state immunity from suit, if this is done pursuant to a valid exercise of its constitutional powers. Amendment XIV grants Congress such power, but not Article I of the Constitution.
Amendment XII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on December 9, 1803 and was ratified on June 15, 1804.
The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;
The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;
The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.
The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
This amendment altered Article II of the Constitution pertaining to presidential elections. Article II said that the U.S. Electoral College would elect both the President and the Vice President in a single election; the person with a majority would become President and the runner-up would become Vice President. Problems with this system were demonstrated by the election of 1796 and the election of 1800. Amendment XII, proposed by the U.S. Congress on December 9, 1803 and ratified by the requisite number of state legislatures on June 15, 1804, required electors to cast two distinct votes: one for President and another for Vice President. The election of 1804, and every election since, has been conducted under Amendment XII. Only once since that time has the House of Representatives chosen the President.
Amendment XIII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on January 31, 1865 and was ratified on December 6, 1865.
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment completed the abolition of slavery, which had begun with President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had only applied to slaves being held in areas that were in rebellion against the United States at the time of the Proclamation. Slaves in areas then controlled by the Union were not freed until this amendment took effect (However, some states where slavery was formerly legal had changed their constitutions in the meantime).
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Amendment XIII does not prohibit mandatory military service in the United States. Interestingly enough, Amendment XIII makes the use of the "chain gang" or other methods of involuntary servitude by convicted criminals constitutional in the United States, as long as the methods of enforcing the servitude are not "cruel and unusual" (floggings, beatings, etc.).
Amendment XIII also prohibits specific performance as a judicial remedy for violations of contracts for personal services such as employment contracts.
Amendment XIV of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on June 13, 1866 and was ratified on July 9, 1868.
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
This amendment regards citizenship, state due process and state equal protection.
The first section formally defines citizenship and requires the states to provide civil rights.
The second section establishes rules for the apportioning of representatives in Congress to states, essentially counting all residents for apportionment and reducing apportionment if a state wrongfully denies a person's right to vote.
The third section prevents the election of any person to the Congress or Electoral College who has engaged in insurrection, rebellion, or treason. However, a two-thirds vote by Congress can override this limitation.
The fourth section confirmed that the United States would not pay "damages" for the loss of slaves, nor debts that had been incurred by the Confederacy — for example, several English and French banks had loaned money to the South during the Civil War.
The fifth section empowers Congress to enforce the amendment "by appropriate legislation."
Amendment XV of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on February 26, 1869 and was ratified on February 3, 1870.
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment prohibits the states or the federal government from using a citizen's race, color, or previous status as a slave as a voting qualification. Its basic purpose was to enfranchise former slaves. But it was not really until the Voting Rights Act in 1965, almost a century later, that this purpose was actually achieved in all states.
Amendment XVI of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 12, 1909 and was ratified on February 3, 1913.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
This amendment allowed the Congress to collect federal income tax from any source without regard for population and the salary of the taxpayers.
A forerunner to this amendment was an act passed in 1894, which attempted were made to impose a federal tax of 2% on incomes over $3,000. Derided by its opponents as "communistic," it was challenged in federal court.
What really brought about this amendment was in 1909. Congress was reflecting the growing concern among many elements of society that the wealthiest Americans had brought together too much economic power. In response to these developments, this amendment was passed by Congress and submitted to legislatures of the several states on July 12th, 1909. It was ratified on February 3, 1913.
Amendment XVII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 13, 1912 and was ratified on April 8, 1913.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
This amendment restates the first paragraph of Article I, section 3 of the Constitution and provides for the election of senators by replacing the phrase "chosen by the Legislature thereof" with "elected by the people thereof." Also, it allows the governor or executive authority of each state, if authorized by that state's legislature, to appoint a senator in the event of an opening, until an election occurs.
Amendment XVII is one of the "Progressive Amendments"; they were passed during the Progressive Era, with the support of the political group known as the "Progressives". The other Progressive amendments were: Amendment XVI, which created the income tax; Amendment XVIII, which started Prohibition of alcoholic beverages; and Amendment XIX, which gave women the right to vote.
Amendment XVIII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on December 18, 1917 and was ratified on January 16, 1919.
Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
This amendment started Prohibition, a period during which the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages were restricted or illegal. The amendment itself did not ban the actual consumption of alcohol, but made obtaining it legally difficult. Temperance movements, in particular, were partly responsible for the creation of this amendment.
A temperance movement is a social movement against the use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance movements may criticize excessive alcohol use, promote complete abstinence, or pressure the government to enact anti-alcohol legislation. Under substantial pressure from the temperance movement in the country, Congress passed a ban on the substance.
Because of many Americans' dismay at the emergence of Prohibition, there was a considerable growth in organized crime in the United States in response to public demand for illegal alcohol. Considered a very unpopular law, the amendment was subsequently repealed by the Amendment XXI on December 5, 1933. It remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.
Amendment XIX of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified on August 18, 1920.
The right of citizens in the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment allowed people of any sex to vote. Before that, women could not vote. After a few determined women protesters paraded down the streets of Washington, D.C., demanding the right to vote from the President. The protesters protested in front of the White House for 18 months starting in 1917 to raise awareness of the issue.
On January 9, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support of the amendment. The next day, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the amendment but the Senate refused to even debate it until October. When the Senate voted on the amendment in October, it failed by two votes.
In response, the National Woman's Party urged citizens to vote against anti-suffrage senators up for election in the fall of 1918. After the 1918 election, most members of Congress were pro-suffrage. On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment by a vote of 304 to 89, and 2 weeks later on June 4, the Senate finally followed, where the amendment passed 56 to 25. It was later ratified on August 18, 1920.
Amendment XX of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on March 2, 1932 and was ratified on January 23, 1933.
Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
This amendment establishes some details of presidential succession and of the beginning and ending of the terms of elected federal officials. The term commencement for congress (January 3) and the president (January 20), were established by this amendment.
Amendment XXI of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on February 20, 1933 and was ratified on December 5, 1933.
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
This amendment repealed Amendment XVIII and ended Prohibition, a period during which the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages were restricted or illegal. Not only did it end Prohibition, it prevented states and cities from holding state and local Prohibition (The prohibition of alcohol in a single state or city).
Amendment XXII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on March 24, 1947 and was ratified on February 27, 1951.
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
This amendment set a two-term limit on the number of terms a President of the United States is allowed to serve. Before this amendment was ratified, strangely, no president has served more than two terms (with the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected for four terms). It is widely believed that early presidents set the two-term limit as a "principle" for future presidents to follow. Few presidents attempted to serve for more than two terms. However, they were either not nominated or lost the elections.
The living current and former presidents are restricted by this amendment as follows:
- Jimmy Carter may serve one more term.
- George H. W. Bush may serve one more term.
- Bill Clinton is ineligible to serve again.
- George W. Bush is ineligible to serve again beyond his current term which ends in 2008.
The amendment imposes no restriction on the number of terms a person may serve as Vice President, or the ability of current or former vice presidents to be elected to the Presidency.
Amendment XXIII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on June 16, 1960 and was ratified on March 29, 1961.
Section 1. The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the states, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a state; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXIV of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 14, 1962 and was ratified on January 23, 1964.
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on the failure to pay a poll tax or other type of tax. After the Civil War, Poll taxes (taxes to be paid for the right to vote) had been enacted in eleven Southern states as a measure to prevent poor black people from voting, and had been held to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. At the time of this amendment's passage, only five states still retained a poll tax.
Amendment XXV of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6, 1965 and was ratified on February 23, 1967.
Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
This amendment clarifies an ambiguous provision of the Constitution regarding succession to the Presidency, and establishes procedures both for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President as well as responding to Presidential disabilities.
As originally ratified, the Constitution stated that in the event the office of President became vacant, "the Same shall devolve upon the Vice President."
This language was somewhat ambiguous in the eyes of some: was the Vice President merely acting as President, or did he actually succeed to the office? While this question was answered by precedent when John Tyler succeeded to the office upon William Henry Harrison's death in 1841, there still remained doubts. Section 1 of Amendment XXV clarified the position: the Vice President becomes President if the presidency is vacated.
The Constitution did not provide for Vice Presidential vacancies until Amendment XXV was ratified — an omission that had been debated for over a century; the Vice Presidency was vacant due to death or resignation several times, often for years. Under Amendment XXV, whenever there is a vacancy in the office of Vice President of the United States, the President nominates a successor, who is confirmed by the majority vote of both houses of Congress.
Amendment XXV is supplemented by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which establishes a line of succession to the powers and duties of the Presidency. Should neither the President nor Vice President be able to serve, the line of succession details what government official shall then act as President.
Amendment XXV addressed the issue by providing that the President may, by transmitting to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration to the same effect, declare himself unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Until the President sends another written declaration to the aforementioned officers declaring himself able to resume office, the Vice President serves as Acting President.
It is also possible for the Vice President, together with a majority of the heads of the executive departments (that is to say, members of Cabinet) or of such other body as Congress by law provides, to declare the President disabled. The provisions of section four have never been invoked. The President may resume his duties by a written declaration sent to the President pro tempore and the Speaker. If the Vice President and Cabinet, however, are still unsatisfied with the President's condition, they may within four days of the President's declaration submit another declaration that the President is incapacitated. Congress must immediately decide the issue; a two-thirds vote in each House is required to permit the Vice President to assume the Acting Presidency.
The current presidential line of succession is as follows:
President of the Senate
|2||Speaker of the House of Representatives||Nancy Pelosi|
|3||President pro tempore of the Senate||Robert Byrd|
|4||Secretary of State||Hillary Clinton|
|5||Secretary of the Treasury||Timothy Geithner|
|6||Secretary of Defense||Robert Gates|
|7||Attorney General||Eric Holder|
|8||Secretary of the Interior||Ken Salazar|
|9||Secretary of Agriculture||Tom Vilsack|
|10||Secretary of Commerce||Gary Locke|
|11||Secretary of Labor||Hilda Solis|
|12||Secretary of Health and Human Services||Kathleen Sebelius|
|13||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||Shaun Donovan|
|14||Secretary of Transportation||Ray LaHood|
|15||Secretary of Energy||Steven Chu|
|16||Secretary of Education||Ann Duncan|
|17||Secretary of Veterans Affairs||Eric Shinseki|
|18||Secretary of Homeland Security||Janet Napolitano|
- † Non-natural-born citizens are ineligible
- It has been a subject of controversy whether Cabinet officers who are not natural-born citizens, such as Carlos Gutierrez (born in Cuba) or Elaine Chao (born in Taiwan), are constitutionally ineligible to be Acting President, because Article II of the Constitution establishes only eligibility requirements for the office of President proper. Thus, Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chao are ineligible to serve as Acting President since they are not natural-born citizens of the United States.
The Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate have priority in the line of succession over the Secretary of State, because Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate are elected positions and the Secretary of State is an appointed official.
Following the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate, the line of succession goes down the line of the head of each executive department in the order in which they were established.
Amendment XXVI of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on March 23, 1971 and was ratified on July 1, 1971.
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment prohibits both the federal government and the state governments from using an age greater than 18 as a qualification for voting.
The right to vote to those 18 or older was endorsed by Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson. A law was passed in 1970 which was similar to the amendment, but the government of Oregon challenged it in court and the Supreme Court overturned the parts of the law which required states to register 18-year-olds for state elections. By this time, five states had already granted citizens under the age of 21 the right to vote (Georgia and Kentucky observed 18 as the minimum voting age, Alaska 19, and Hawaii and New Hampshire 20), but many citizens wanted all states to do so.
Congress and the state legislatures felt increasing pressure to pass the Constitutional amendment because of the Vietnam War, in which many young men who were ineligible to vote were conscripted to fight, and died. The idea was that if an individual is old enough to die fighting for his country, why should he not have the right to vote? With this in his mind, President Lyndon Johnson had asked Congress to propose an amendment lowering the voting age to 18 in the summer of 1968. The amendment passed through Congress when it was reintroduced by in 1971, and within months passed three-fourths of the state legislatures, quicker than any other amendment. Amendment XXVI was formally certified by President Richard Nixon on July 1, 1971.
Amendment XXVII of the United States Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 25, 1789 and was ratified on May 5, 1992.
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
This amendment to provides that any change in the salary of members of Congress may only take effect after the next general election. Sometimes called the "Congressional Compensation Amendment of 1789", the "Congressional Pay Amendment", and the "Madison Amendment", it was intended to serve as a restraint on the power of Congress to set its own salary—an obvious conflict of interest. Since its 1992 adoption, however, this amendment has not hindered members of Congress from receiving nearly annual pay raises, characterized as "cost-of-living adjustments" (COLAs) rather than as pay raises in the traditional sense of the term. The Federal courts have ruled in cases brought under the amendment that a COLA is not the same thing as a pay raise. Hence, members of Congress have been able to enjoy increases in compensation without triggering the restrictions which this amendment seeks to impose. It should be pointed out that it is Congress which determines whether Federal judges will receive an increase in their salaries, the only limitation being that Congress is forbidden to ever reduce judicial compensation. Additionally, retirement benefits of Federal judges are linked with those of members of Congress. This amendment was one of two failed amendments on the Bill of Rights.
This amendment was actually suggested by a number of states. During the 1788 North Carolina convention assembled to consider the original Constitution itself, the following amendment, among others, was requested of Congress:
- The laws ascertaining the compensation of senators and representatives, for their services, shall be postponed in their operation until after the election of representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof; that excepted which shall first be passed on the subject.
Virginia, in its 1788 ratification convention, recommended the exact same language that North Carolina had suggested.
And New York, in its 1788 ratification convention, urged Congress to consider this wording:
- That the Compensation for the Senators and Representatives be ascertained by standing law; and that no alteration of the existing rate of Compensation shall operate for the Benefit of the Representatives, until after a subsequent Election shall have been had.
In 1816, more than a quarter century after Congress had officially submitted the amendment (and eleven others) to the state legislatures for consideration, the Massachusetts General Court expressed its desire for an amendment to the Constitution worded almost exactly as it was offered by Congress in 1789. The legislation embodying the recommendation was approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives on a vote of 138 to 29. Sometime in December 1816 or early 1817, the Kentucky General Assembly did the same thing; and, in 1817 or January 1818, Tennessee's lawmakers followed suit.
From 1789 to 1791, the compensation proposal was ratified by legislators in only six states—Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont and Virginia—out of the eleven then required. As more states entered the Union, the ratification threshold increased.
The proposed amendment was largely forgotten until 1982, when a Texas university student, Gregory Watson, rediscovered it. The push for ratification began in earnest; and the amendment was finally ratified a decade later on May 5, 1992, when it was approved by the legislature of Alabama, the 38th state to assent, there being 50 states in the Union at the time. At that point, it became Amendment XXVII of the Constitution.