The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was originally proposed on September 25th, 1789, and was finally ratified on May 7th, 1992. In other words, it took 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days and reads: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
In other words, and contrary to popular belief, a current sitting Congress can’t vote to give themselves a pay raise but can vote to give a subsequent Congress a raise. However, with re-election rates being what they’re this is of little consequence. In other words, a sitting Member of Congress voting to raise Congressional pay is a de-facto vote for raising their own pay.
Often, these types of votes occur after the primary elections and the language gets buried inside other bills which makes it easier to be overlooked, giving a newly re-nominated Member of Congress carte blanche to vote for them. Holding these votes towards the end of one term means that once they’re sworn into office in January, they do so with a bump in salary for the next 2 years. This gives plenty of time for the few in the public who pay attention to forget, become distracted by other issues or life in general, thus allowing their Member of Congress to avoid any repercussions their vote normally would bring.
Time for a 28th Amendment
The fact it took 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days to ratify what would be the 27th Amendment, doesn’t mean it has taken nearly as long for other Amendments to be proposed, debated, and ratified. Regardless, it’s time for a 28th Amendment and if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t stop at a 28th. In fact, I would love to see a few more Amendments that touches on several issues, and in no certain order, I believe we need a Balanced Budget Amendment, the U.S. is $26+Trillion in debt and rising, by any other definition the United States is bankrupt. In this amendment, we could add language that allows for deficit spending only in certain situations such as a true crisis, such as total war, major natural disasters, and the like.
We also need to institute Term Limits on Members of Congress and Federal Judges, which includes Supreme Court Justices. Career politicians and Judges who have lifetime appointments have done more to create the problems our nation now faces than any external threat. In this amendment, we could include additional language that prohibits former elected officials and certain career officials from lobbying for a certain period.
While we’re at it, given it takes an Amendment to repeal an Amendment, I say we discuss repealing at one completely and repealing and replacing another. For starters, let’s discuss repealing the 16th Amendment, which permits Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the various states or basing it on the U.S. Census. To me, this arbitrary power to tax smacks in the face of America’s founding principles.
I would also like to repeal and replace/revise the 14th Amendment, which has allowed for “Birthright citizenship.” It reads: “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.” Sadly, its original intent has been expanded to include anyone born to an illegal alien, not based on the needs of the nation, but the needs of one political party. I could go on, but in this new Amendment, we could merely add clearer verbiage that defines who qualifies as a U.S. Citizen.
There are others who would love to repeal the 17th Amendment which allows for the direct election of U.S. Senators, to me this is a much lower priority but one I would be willing to discuss.
At the end of the day, we could get lost in the weeds or venture down rabbit hole after rabbit hole discussing what amendments we need to add, repeal or revise but that’s not my purpose for this article. Basically, I wanted to briefly touch on a few amendments that I believe are way overdue, at the same time, I wanted to add the process for amending the Constitution as well.
Constitutional Amendment Process
Except for a few spelling and grammar corrections, the following text is verbatim from the United States National Archives.
The authority to amend the Constitution of the United States is derived from Article V of the Constitution. After Congress proposes an amendment, the Archivist of the United States, who heads the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.C. 106b. The Archivist has delegated many of the ministerial duties associated with this function to the Director of the Federal Register. Neither Article V of the Constitution nor section 106b describes the ratification process in detail. The Archivist and the Director of the Federal Register follow procedures and customs established by the Secretary of State, who performed these duties until 1950, and the Administrator of General Services, who served in this capacity until NARA assumed responsibility as an independent agency in 1985.
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal “red-line” copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b.
The Archivist submits the proposed amendment to the States for their consideration by sending a letter of notification to each Governor along with the informational material prepared by the OFR. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their State legislatures, or the state calls for a convention, depending on what Congress has specified. In the past, some State legislatures have not waited to receive official notice before acting on a proposed amendment. When a State ratifies a proposed amendment, it sends the Archivist an original or certified copy of the State action, which is immediately conveyed to the Director of the Federal Register. The OFR examines ratification documents for facial legal sufficiency and an authenticating signature. If the documents are found to be in good order, the Director acknowledges receipt and maintains custody of them. The OFR retains these documents until an amendment is adopted or fails, and then transfers the records to the National Archives for preservation.
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.
In a few instances, States have sent official documents to NARA to record the rejection of an amendment or the rescission of prior ratification. The Archivist does not make any substantive determinations as to the validity of State ratification actions, but it has been established that the Archivist’s certification of the facial legal sufficiency of ratification documents is final and conclusive.
In recent history, the signing of the certification has become a ceremonial function attended by various dignitaries, which may include the President. President Johnson signed the certifications for the 24th and 25th Amendments as a witness, and President Nixon similarly witnessed the certification of the 26th Amendment along with three young scholars. On May 18, 1992, the Archivist performed the duties of the certifying official for the first time to recognize the ratification of the 27th Amendment, and the Director of the Federal Register signed the certification as a witness.
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