List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution
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This list contains proposed amendments to the United States Constitution. Article Five of the United States Constitution provides for two methods for proposing and two methods for the ratification of an amendment. An amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a national convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. The latter procedure has never been used. Upon adoption by the Congress or a national convention, an amendment must then be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by special state ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states. The decision of which ratification method will be used for any given amendment is Congress' alone to make. Only for the 21st amendment was the latter procedure invoked and followed.
Collectively, members of the House and Senate typically propose around 200 amendments during each two–year term of Congress. Most however, never get out of the Congressional committees in which they were proposed, and only a fraction of those that do receive enough support to win Congressional approval to actually go through the constitutional ratification process.
Only 33 such proposals have been adopted by Congress since 1789 and presented to the states for ratification, and of these, only 27 have been ratified. The framers of the Constitution, recognizing the difference between regular legislation and constitutional matters, intended that it be difficult to change the Constitution; but not so difficult as to render it an inflexible instrument of government, as the amendment mechanism in the Articles of Confederation, which required a unanimous vote of thirteen states for ratification, had proven to be. Therefore, a less stringent process for amending the Constitution was established in Article V.
The framers of the Constitution included a proviso at the end of Article V shielding three clauses in the new frame of government from being amended. They are: Article I, Section 9, Clause 1, concerning the migration and importation of slaves; Article I, Section 9, Clause 4, concerning Congress' taxing power; and, Article I, Section 3, Clause 1, which provides for equal representation of the states in the Senate. These are the only textually entrenched provisions of the Constitution. The shield protecting the first two entrenched clauses was absolute but of limited duration; it was in force only until 1808. The shield protecting the third entrenched clause, though less absolute than that covering the others, is practically permanent; it will be in force until there is unanimous agreement among the states favoring a change.
Beginning in the early 20th century, Congress has usually, but not always, stipulated that an amendment must be ratified by the required number of states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states in order to become part of the Constitution. Congress' authority to set ratification deadline was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939).
Amending the United States Constitution is a two-step process. Proposals to amend it must be properly Adopted and Ratified before becoming operative.
A proposed amendment may be adopted and sent to the states for ratification by either:
- The United States Congress, whenever a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives deem it necessary;
- A national convention, called by Congress for this purpose, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds (presently 34) of the states.
To become part of the Constitution, an adopted amendment must be ratified by either (as determined by Congress):
- The legislatures of three-fourths (presently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time period—if any;
- State ratifying conventions in three-fourths (presently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time period—if any.
Upon being properly ratified, an amendment becomes an operative addition to the Constitution.
Amendments approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification
Twenty-seven Constitutional Amendments have been ratified since the Constitution was put into operation on March 4, 1789. The first ten amendments were adopted and ratified simultaneously and are known collectively as the Bill of Rights.
- 1st Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- Prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
- 2nd Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- Protects the right to keep and bear arms.
- 3rd Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- Prohibits the forced quartering of soldiers during peacetime.
- 4th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- 5th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- 6th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- 7th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- 8th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- 9th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- Protects rights not enumerated in the constitution.
- 10th Amendment (December 15, 1791)
- Limits the powers of the federal government to those delegated to it by the Constitution.
- 11th Amendment (February 7, 1795)
- Makes states immune from suits from out-of-state citizens and foreigners not living within the state borders; lays the foundation for sovereign immunity.
- 12th Amendment (June 15, 1804)
- Revises presidential election procedures.
- 13th Amendment (December 6, 1865)
- 14th Amendment (July 9, 1868)
- 15th Amendment (February 3, 1870)
- Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
- 16th Amendment (February 3, 1913)
- Permits the federal government to collect income tax.
- 17th Amendment (April 8, 1913)
- Establishes the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote.
- 18th Amendment (January 16, 1919)
- 19th Amendment (August 18, 1920)
- Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex.
- 20th Amendment (January 23, 1933)
- Changes the date on which the terms of the President and Vice President (January 20) and Senators and Representatives (January 3) end and begin.
(Sections 1 and 2 took effect October 15, 1933, as stipulated by Section 5; therefore, new terms of senators and representatives began January 3, 1934 and the new terms of the President and Vice President began on January 20, 1937.)
- Changes the date on which the terms of the President and Vice President (January 20) and Senators and Representatives (January 3) end and begin.
- 21st Amendment (December 5, 1933)
- Repeals the 18th Amendment and prohibits the transportation or importation into the United States of alcohol for delivery or use in violation of applicable laws.
- 22nd Amendment (February 27, 1951)
- Limits the number of times that a person can be elected president to twice, and the number of times a person who has served more than two years of a term to which someone else was elected to once.
- 23rd Amendment (March 29, 1961)
- 24th Amendment (January 23, 1964)
- Prohibits the revocation of voting rights for the non-payment of a poll tax.
- 25th Amendment (February 10, 1967)
- Addresses 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.
- 26th Amendment (July 1, 1971)
- Prohibits the denial of the right of US citizens, eighteen years of age or older, to vote on account of age.
- 27th Amendment (May 7, 1992)
- Delays laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of representatives.
Six amendments adopted by Congress and sent to the states have not been ratified by the required number of states. Four of these, including one of the twelve Bill of Rights amendments, are still technically open and pending. The other two amendments are closed and no longer pending, one by terms set within the Congressional Resolution proposing it (†) and the other by terms set within the body of the amendment (‡).
- Congressional Apportionment Amendment (pending since September 25, 1789; ratified by 11 states)
- Titles of Nobility Amendment (pending since May 1, 1810; ratified by 12 states)
- Corwin Amendment (pending since March 2, 1861; ratified by 3 states)
- Would make "domestic institutions" (which in 1861 implicitly meant slavery) of the states impervious to the constitutional amendment procedures enshrined within Article Five of the United States Constitution and immune to abolition or interference even by the most compelling Congressional and popular majorities.
- Child Labor Amendment (pending since June 2, 1924; ratified by 28 states)
- Would empower the federal government to regulate child labor.
- Equal Rights Amendment (Ratification period, March 22, 1972 to March 22, 1979/June 30, 1982, amendment failed (†); ratified by 35 states)
- Would have prohibited deprivation of equality of rights (discrimination) by the federal or state governments on account of sex.
- District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment (Ratification period, August 22, 1978 to August 22, 1985, Amendment failed(‡); ratified by 16 states)
- Would have granted the District of Columbia full representation in the United States Congress as if it were a state, repealed the 23rd Amendment and granted the District full representation in the Electoral College system in addition to full participation in the process by which the Constitution is amended.
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 was 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.
- Convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution
- Second Constitutional Convention of the United States
- "C-SPAN's Capitol Questions". Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- James J. Kilpatrick, ed. (1961). The Constitution of the United States and Amendments Thereto. Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government. p. 49.
- "Measures Proposed to Amend the Constitution". Statistics & Lists. United States Senate.
- Ames, Herman Vandenburg (1897). The proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States during the first century of its history. Government Printing Office. p. 19.
- 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. ISBN 9780815320791.
- "Bricker Amendment". Ohio History Central. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
- James V. Saturno, “A Balanced Budget Amendment Constitutional Amendment: Procedural Issues and Legislative History,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress No. 98-671, August 5, 1998.
- 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 46 at Congress.gov
- 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 26 at Congress.gov
- "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 Congress.gov
- 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 Congress.gov
- 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 11 at Congress.gov
- 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 21 at Congress.gov
- 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 88 at Congress.gov
- 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.
- Some proposed amendments to the United States Constitution
- Unamendments, by Jason Mazzone, Iowa Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 1747–1855, 2005.
- GovTrack: Bills by Subject: Constitutional Amendments
- The Amendment Process
- The Failed Amendments