List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution
This list contains proposed amendments to the United States Constitution. Article Five of the United States Constitution allows for two methods of proposing amendments: through Congress or through a convention called for by the states.
Representatives and Senators typically collectively propose up to 200 amendments during each term of Congress; most never get out of Congressional committees. Few proposed amendments pass the first constitutional hurdle: approval by two-thirds majorities in both Houses of Congress. For more information on amendments that have been approved by Congress, but not by the state legislatures, see the section of this page titled Amendments approved by Congress and awaiting ratification. The Constitution also allows state legislatures to call for "a Convention for proposing Amendments"; while many states have at different times called for such a convention, the requirement that two-thirds of states call for such a convention before one can be held has never been met.
Only 33 such proposals in U.S. history (including the 27 that were ratified) have received the two-thirds vote in Congress necessary to present them to the states. The framers intended that it be difficult to change the Constitution, but not so difficult as to render it an inflexible instrument of government. Their prescription drew upon their experience with the Articles of Confederation, which had been the United States' previous supreme law since 1781, and which required a unanimous vote of 13 states to amend. This unanimity proved impossible to obtain, and the framers therefore laid out a less stringent process for amending the Constitution in Article V.
The passage of the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1992, 202 years after it had been approved by Congress, spurred interest in the subject from the general public. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939), any proposed amendment which has been submitted to the states for ratification and does not specify a ratification deadline may be ratified by the states at any time. In Coleman, the Supreme Court further ruled that the ratification of a constitutional amendment is political in nature—and so not a matter properly assigned to the judiciary.
- 1 Amending process
- 2 Amendments approved by Congress that were not ratified
- 3 Amendments approved by Congress and awaiting ratification
- 4 Proposed amendments not approved by Congress
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Amending the Constitution is a two-step process: Proposition and Ratification.
- Proposing an amendment: Article Five allows for two methods of proposing an amendment: By Congress or by a national convention.
- Congressional proposition: A two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress—assuming the presence of a quorum—may propose an amendment. All of the ratified and unratified amendments have been proposed by this method.
- National convention: An amendment may also be proposed by a national convention requested (or "applied" for) by legislatures of at least two-thirds of the states (currently 34).
- Ratification: A proposed amendment must then be ratified. There are two possible methods of ratification, and only Congress may choose which method to use.
- Ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 states with 50 states currently in the Union). Such proposals sometimes have a ratification deadline.
- Ratification by state conventions of three-fourths of the states. Only the Twenty-first Amendment has used this method.
Article Five specifies entrenched clauses that cannot be amended by the usual process. The first two restrictions, regarding the slave trade and direct taxes, expired in 1808. The last one specifies that an amendment cannot deprive a state of equal representation in the Senate without that state's consent.
Amendments approved by Congress that were not ratified
Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment, approved by Congress March 22, 1972, would make government discrimination based on a citizen's sex illegal. The initial pace of state legislative ratifications was rapid during 1972 and 1973. The rate of ratification then slowed considerably with only three ratifications during 1974, just one in 1975, none at all in 1976 and only one in 1977. The 92nd Congress, in proposing the ERA, had set a seven-year time limit for its ratification and, by the end of that deadline on March 22, 1979, a total of 35 of the required 38 states had ratified it.
The deadline was extended to ten years (June 30, 1982), before expiring but no additional states ratified the amendment. It has been argued that the amendment can still be ratified if Congress re-extends the deadline, if three more states ratify the amendment (bringing the number of states up to the required thirty-eight) and if the archivist of the United States or the U.S. Congress accept the ratification as valid. This method of ratification is controversial and contrary to existing court precedent, but in recent years states have begun to take up the issue again (the Illinois House of Representatives voted to ratify and the Florida Senate voted 7–3 for the amendment in committee).
District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment
The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, approved by Congress on August 22, 1978, would have given the residents of the District of Columbia full representation in both houses of the Congress in addition to full participation in the Electoral College. It expired unratified in 1985.
Requiring the approvals of lawmakers in at least 38 of the 50 states, the amendment was ratified by only 16 states prior to the August 22, 1985 deadline:
- New Jersey on September 11, 1978
- Michigan on December 13, 1978
- Ohio on December 21, 1978
- Minnesota on March 19, 1979
- Massachusetts on March 19, 1979
- Connecticut on April 11, 1979
- Wisconsin on November 1, 1979
- Maryland on March 19, 1980
- Hawaii on April 17, 1980
- Oregon on July 6, 1981
- Maine on February 16, 1983
- West Virginia on February 23, 1983
- Rhode Island on May 13, 1983
- Iowa on January 19, 1984
- Louisiana on June 24, 1984
- Delaware on June 28, 1984
Amendments approved by Congress and awaiting ratification
The following amendments passed a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. They were therefore approved by Congress and moved to the next step of ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 states with 50 states currently in the Union). The act of rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment by a state legislatures has no legal recognition, but such actions have political ramifications and are symbolic of the state's strong opposition to the amendment. All of the following proposed amendments are still technically active and have never expired or died and could be still ratified by state legislatures at any time.
Congressional Apportionment Amendment
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment, approved by Congress in 1789 as part of the proposed Bill of Rights. This is the only one of the original twelve amendments in the Bill of Rights never to have been ratified by the states. Its purpose is to further specify how the seats in the House of Representatives should be apportioned.
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment has been one state short of the total needed for ratification on two occasions: from November 3, 1791, to June 1, 1792 (from the ratification by Vermont until the admission of Kentucky as the 15th state), and from June 24, 1792, to March 1, 1803 (from the ratification by Kentucky until the admission of Ohio as the 17th state). It has been ratified by 11 states:
- New Jersey on November 20, 1789
- Maryland on December 19, 1789
- North Carolina on December 22, 1789
- South Carolina on January 19, 1790
- New Hampshire on January 25, 1790
- New York on March 27, 1790
- Rhode Island on June 15, 1790
- Pennsylvania on September 21, 1791 (after rejecting it on March 10, 1790)
- Virginia on October 25, 1791
- Vermont on November 3, 1791
- Kentucky on June 24, 1792
The amendment has been rejected by one state:
- Delaware on January 28, 1790
Titles of Nobility Amendment
The Titles of Nobility Amendment, approved by Congress in 1810, would revoke the citizenship of anyone accepting a foreign title of nobility.
The Titles of Nobility Amendment has been two states short of the total needed for ratification on two occasions: from February 27, 1812, to April 30, 1812 (from the ratification by Massachusetts until the admission of Louisiana as the 18th state), and from December 9, 1812, to December 11, 1816 (from the ratification by New Hampshire until the admission of Indiana as the 19th state). It has been ratified by 12 states:
- Maryland (December 25, 1810)
- Kentucky (January 31, 1811)
- Ohio (January 31, 1811)
- Delaware (February 2, 1811)
- Pennsylvania (February 6, 1811)
- New Jersey (February 13, 1811)
- Vermont (October 24, 1811)
- Tennessee (November 21, 1811)
- Georgia (November 22, 1811)
- North Carolina (December 23, 1811)
- Massachusetts (February 27, 1812)
- New Hampshire (December 9, 1812)
The amendment has been rejected by three states:
The Corwin Amendment, approved by Congress in 1861, would have forbidden attempts to subsequently amend the Constitution to empower the Congress to "abolish or interfere" with the "domestic institutions" of the states, including "persons held to labor or service" (a reference to slavery). Corwin's resolution emerged as the House of Representatives's version of an earlier, identical proposal in the Senate offered by Senator William H. Seward of New York. This amendment sought to protect slavery from federal intervention and was a last-ditch effort to avert the outbreak of the American Civil War. Little action was ever taken on this amendment after the start of the Civil War on April 12, 1861.
When viewed as an entrenched clause, the Corwin Amendment—had it been ratified—might have been construed to prohibit the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the nation and gave Congress enforcement power. The Corwin Amendment might also have prevented the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment and the voting rights amendments, all of which dealt with the states' internal affairs. A competing theory suggests a later amendment conflicting with an already-ratified Corwin Amendment would either explicitly repeal the Corwin Amendment (as the Twenty-first Amendment explicitly repealed the Eighteenth Amendment) or been inferred to have partially or completely repealed an adopted Corwin Amendment.
The amendment was ratified by three states:
- Ohio (May 13, 1861)
- Maryland (January 1862) (Actual date not known, possibly due to military activity in the Civil War)
- Illinois (1862) (this ratification is disputed as lawmakers approved the amendment while they were sitting in session as a state constitutional convention rather than as a legislature, thus causing some to see this particular ratification as possibly invalid)
Child Labor Amendment
The Child Labor Amendment, approved by Congress in 1924, would give Congress authority to enact child labor regulations that had previously been rejected by the Supreme Court. Although only 6 states had ratified the amendment by the beginning of 1933, the total rose to 28 by the end of 1937, leaving the amendment still eight states short of the number then required. In 1941, the Supreme Court overturned its earlier rejection of federal child labor regulation in United States v. Darby Lumber Co. This decision has been described as making the Child Labor Amendment unnecessary. The amendment has been ratified by 28 states:
- Arkansas (1924)
- Arizona (1925)
- California (1925)
- Wisconsin (1925)
- Montana (1927)
- Colorado (1931)
- Illinois (1933)
- Iowa (1933)
- Maine (1933)
- Michigan (1933)
- Minnesota (1933)
- New Hampshire (1933)
- New Jersey (1933)
- North Dakota (1933)
- Ohio (1933)
- Oklahoma (1933)
- Oregon (1933)
- Pennsylvania (1933)
- Washington (1933)
- West Virginia (1933)
- Idaho (1935)
- Indiana (1935)
- Utah (1935)
- Wyoming (1935)
- Kentucky (1936)
- Kansas (1937)
- Nevada (1937)
- New Mexico (1937)
The amendment has been rejected by twelve states:
- North Carolina (1924)
- Florida (1925)
- Georgia (1925)
- Massachusetts (1925)
- Missouri (1925)
- South Carolina (1925)
- Tennessee (1925)
- Texas (1925)
- Vermont (1925)
- Virginia (1926)
- Maryland (1927)
- Louisiana (1924, 1934, and 1936) (rejected the Child Labor Amendment on three separate occasions)
Three other state legislatures approved the amendment in one house, but not in both houses as required:
- Nebraska (1929) (NOTE: Nebraska's legislature did not become unicameral until 1937)
- Mississippi (1934)
- New York (1937)
Proposed amendments not approved by Congress
Approximately 11,539 measures have been proposed to amend the Constitution from 1789 through January 2, 2013. The following amendments, while introduced by a member of Congress, either died in committee or did not receive a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and were therefore not sent to the states for ratification.
Over 1,300 resolutions containing over 1,800 proposals to amend the constitution had been submitted before Congress during the first century of its adoption. Some prominent proposals included:
- Blaine Amendment, proposed in 1875, would have banned public funds from going to religious purposes, in order to prevent Catholics from taking advantage of such funds. Though it failed to pass, many states adopted such provisions.
- Christian Amendment, proposed first in February 1863, would have added acknowledgment of the Christian God in the Preamble to the Constitution. Similar amendments were proposed in 1874, 1896 and 1910 with none passing. The last attempt in 1954 did not come to a vote.
- The Crittenden Compromise, a joint resolution that included six constitutional amendments that would protect slavery. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate rejected it in 1861 and Abraham Lincoln was elected on a platform that opposed the expansion of slavery. The South's reaction to the rejection paved the way for the secession of the Confederate states and the American Civil War.
- Anti-Miscegenation Amendment was proposed by Representative Seaborn Roddenbery, a Democrat from Georgia, in 1912 to forbid interracial marriages nationwide. Similar amendments were proposed by Congressman Andrew King, a Missourian Democrat, in 1871 and by Senator Coleman Blease, a South Carolinian Democrat, in 1928. None were passed by Congress.
- Anti-Polygamy Amendment, proposed by Representative Frederick Gillett, a Massachusetts Republican, on January 24, 1914, and supported by former U.S. Senator from Utah and anti-Mormon activist, Frank J. Cannon, and by the National Reform Association.
- Bricker Amendment, proposed in 1951 by Ohio Senator John W. Bricker, would have limited the federal government's treaty-making power. Opposed by President Dwight Eisenhower, it failed twice to reach the threshold of two-thirds of voting members necessary for passage, the first time by eight votes and the second time by single vote.
- Death Penalty Abolition Amendment was proposed in 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1995 by Representative Henry González to prohibit the imposition of capital punishment "by any State, Territory, or other jurisdiction within the United States". The amendment was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, but never made it out of committee.
- Flag Desecration Amendment was first proposed in 1968 to give Congress the power to make acts such as flag burning illegal. During each term of Congress from 1995 to 2005, the proposed amendment was passed by the House of Representatives, but never by the Senate, coming closest during voting on June 27, 2006, with 66 in support and 34 opposed (one vote short).
- Human Life Amendment, first proposed in 1973, would overturn the Roe v. Wade court ruling. A total of 330 proposals using varying texts have been proposed with almost all dying in committee. The only version that reached a formal floor vote, the Hatch-Eagleton Amendment, was rejected by 18 votes in the Senate on June 28, 1983.
- Ludlow Amendment was proposed by Representative Louis Ludlow in 1937. This amendment would have heavily reduced America's ability to be involved in war.
- A balanced budget amendment, in which Congress and the President are forced to balance the budget every year, has been introduced many times.
- School Prayer Amendment proposed on April 9, 2003, to establish that "The people retain the right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools."
- God in the Pledge of Allegiance – declaring that it is not an establishment of religion for teachers to lead students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (with the words "one Nation under God"), proposed on February 27, 2003, by Oklahoma Representative Frank Lucas.
- Every Vote Counts Amendment – proposed by Congressman Gene Green on September 14, 2004. It would abolish the electoral college.
- Continuity of Government Amendment – after a Senate hearing in 2004 regarding the need for an amendment to ensure continuity of government in the event that many members of Congress become incapacitated, Senator John Cornyn introduced an amendment to allow Congress to temporarily replace members after at least a quarter of either chamber is incapacitated.
- Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment – proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch. It would allow naturalized citizens with at least twenty years' citizenship to become president.
- Seventeenth Amendment repeal – proposed in 2004 by Georgia Senator Zell Miller. It would reinstate the appointment of Senators by state legislatures as originally required by Article One, Section Three, Clauses One and Three.
- The Federal Marriage Amendment has been introduced in the United States Congress four times: in 2003, 2004, 2005/2006 and 2008 by multiple members of Congress (with support from then-President George W. Bush). It would define marriage and prohibit same-sex marriage, even at the state level.
- Twenty-second Amendment repeal – proposed as early as 1989, various congressmen, including Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. José Serrano, Rep. Howard Berman, and Sen. Harry Reid, have introduced legislation, but each resolution died before making it out of its respective committee. The current amendment limits the president to two elected terms in office, and up to two years succeeding a President in office. Last action was On January 4, 2013, Rep. José Serrano once again introduced H.J.Res. 15 proposing an Amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment, as he has done every two years since 1997.
- On January 16, 2009, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana proposed an amendment which would have denied US citizenship to anyone born in the US unless at least one parent were a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the armed forces.
- On February 25, 2009, Senator Lisa Murkowski, because she believed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 would be unconstitutional if adopted, proposed a Constitutional amendment that would provide a Representative to the District of Columbia.
- On November 11, 2009, Senator Jim DeMint proposed term limits for the U.S. Congress, where the limit for senators will be two terms for a total of 12 years and for representatives, three terms for a total of six years.
- On November 15, 2011, Representative James P. McGovern introduced the People's Rights Amendment, a proposal to limit the Constitution's protections only to the rights of natural persons, and not corporations. This amendment would overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
- On December 8, 2011 Senator Bernie Sanders filed The Saving American Democracy Amendment, which would state that corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as people. It would also ban corporate campaign donations to candidates, and give Congress and the states broad authority to regulate spending in elections. This amendment would overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
- Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. backed the Right to Vote Amendment, a proposal to explicitly guarantee the right to vote for all legal U.S. citizens and empower Congress to protect this right; he introduced a resolution for the amendment in the 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th, all of which died in committee. On May 13, 2013, Reps. Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison re-introduced the bill.
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- "Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916". Our Documents. National Archives. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
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- Iversen, Joan (1997). The Antipolygamy Controversy in U.S. Women's Movements: 1880-1925: A Debate on the American Home. NY: Routledge. pp. 243–4.
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- 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 46 at THOMAS
- 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 26 at THOMAS
- "GovTrack: H. J. Res. 103 108th]: Text of Legislation, Introduced in House". Govtrack.us. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
- "Statement of Chairman Orrin G. Hatch Before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary". Hatch.senate.gov. January 27, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-04-23.
- 109th Congress, S.J.Res. 6 at THOMAS
- 111th Congress, H.J.Res. 5. Introduced January 6, 2009.
- 101st Congress, S.J.Res. 36. Sponsored by Harry Reid. January 31, 1989.
- Govtrack.us, H.J.Res. 15: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States...
- 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 6 at THOMAS
- 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 11 at THOMAS
- 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 21 at THOMAS
- 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 88 at THOMAS
- Remsen, Nancy (December 8, 2011). "Sen. Bernie Sanders, I–Vt., offers constitutional amendment on corporate "citizenship"". The Burlington Free Press.
- Saving American Democracy Amendment
- 107th Congress, H.J.Res. 72
- 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
- 109th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
- 110th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
- 111th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
- 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
- Press release (May 13, 2013). "Pocan and Ellison Announce Right to Vote Amendment". Congressman Mark Pocan.
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- Unamendments, by Jason Mazzone, Iowa Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 1747–1855, 2005.
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