List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution

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Hundreds of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution are introduced during each session of the United States Congress. From 1789 through January 3, 2017, approximately 11,699 measures have been proposed to amend the United States Constitution.[1] Collectively, members of the House and Senate typically propose around 200 amendments during each two-year term of Congress.[2] 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. Some proposed amendments are introduced over and over again in different sessions of Congress. It is also common for a number of identical resolutions to be offered on issues that have widespread public and congressional support.

Since 1789, Congress has sent 33 constitutional amendments to the states for ratification. Of these, 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.

Amending process[edit]

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:

  • A national convention, called by Congress for this purpose, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds (presently 34) of the states.

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.

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.

The decision of which ratification method will be used for any given amendment is Congress' alone to make.[3] Only for the 21st amendment was the latter procedure invoked and followed. Upon being properly ratified, an amendment becomes an operative addition to the Constitution.[4]

19th century proposals[edit]

  • Dueling Ban Amendment, proposed in 1838, after Representative William Graves killed another congressman, Jonathan Cilley, in a duel, would have prohibited any person involved in a duel from holding federal office.[5]
  • The Crittenden Compromise, a joint resolution that included six constitutional amendments that would protect slavery.[6] Two weeks after South Carolina seceded, the proposals were introduced to the Senate as a whole. It was defeated in a 25-23 vote. [6]
  • Christian Amendment, first proposed in February 1863, would have added acknowledgment of the Christian God in the Preamble to the Constitution.[7] Similar amendments were proposed in 1874, 1896 and 1910 with none passing. The last attempt in 1954 did not come to a vote.
  • 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.[8] Though it failed to pass, many states adopted such provisions. [6]

20th century proposals[edit]

  • Anti-Miscegenation Amendment was proposed by Representative Seaborn Roddenbery, a Democrat from Georgia, in 1912 to forbid interracial marriages nationwide. This was spurred when black boxer Jack Johnson garnered much publicity when he married a white woman, Lucille Cameron.[9][10] 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, Frank J. Cannon, and by the National Reform Association.[11]
  • Ludlow Amendment was proposed by Representative Louis Ludlow in 1937. This amendment would have heavily reduced America's ability to be involved in war. Public support for the amendment was very robust through the 1930s, a period when isolationism was the prevailing mood in the United States.[12][13][14]
  • Bricker Amendment, proposed in 1951 by Ohio Senator John W. Bricker, would have limited the federal government's treaty-making power.[15] Opposed by President Dwight Eisenhower,[16] 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 a single vote.[17]
  • Twenty-second Amendment repeal, would eliminate term limits for presidents. Outgoing Presidents Harry Truman.[18] Ronald Reagan [19] and Bill Clinton [20] all expressed support for some sort of repeal. The first efforts in Congress to repeal the 22nd Amendment were undertaken in 1956, only five years after the amendment's ratification. According to the Congressional Research Service, over the ensuing half-century (through 2008) 54 joint resolutions seeking to repeal the two-term presidential election limit were introduced; none were given serious consideration.[21] The most recent attempt was launched by Representative José Serrano (D-New York) in 2013, during the 113th Congress.[22]
  • School Prayer Amendment to establish that "The people retain the right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools. Proposed by Robert Byrd of West Virginia in 1962, 1973, 1979, 1982, 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2006.[23] Representative Ernest Istook, a Republican from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district, proposed the amendment in the house on May 8, 1997. [24]In March 1998, the Judiciary Committee passed the bill by a 16-11 vote.[25] On June 4, 1998, the full House voted on the amendment, 224-203 in favor. The vote was 61 short of the required two-thirds majority.[26]
  • Flag Desecration Amendment was first proposed in 1995 to give Congress the power to make acts such as flag burning illegal, seeking to overturn the 1990 supreme court ruling that such laws were unconstitutional.[27] 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).[28]
  • Bayh–Celler amendment was the closest the United States has come to passing an Electoral College abolition amendment. It was proposed during the 91st Congress (1969–1971).[29] The House Judiciary Committee voted 28 to 6 to approve the proposal [30] and was eventually passed the full House with bipartisan support on September 18, 1969, by a vote of 339 to 70.[31]. The Senate commenced openly debating the proposal[32] and the proposal was quickly filibustered.[33] On September 17, 1970, a motion for cloture, which would have ended the filibuster, received 54 votes to 36 for cloture,[33] failing to receive the then required a two-thirds majority of senators voting. Other proposals were made in 2005, 2009, and 2016, none of which were voted on by committee.
  • 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,[34][35] was rejected by 18 votes in the Senate on June 28, 1983.[36]
  • A balanced budget amendment, in which Congress and the President are forced to balance the budget every year, has been introduced many times[37] dating back to the 1930s.[38] No measure passed either body of Congress until 1982, when the Senate took 11 days to consider it and gained the necessary two-thirds majority.[38] The first and only time the House gave two-thirds approval to a balanced budget amendment was in 1995, when Members voted for the Contract with America. That was also the last time the House held a floor or committee vote. [38]

21st century proposals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Measures Proposed to Amend the Constitution". Washington, D.C.: United States Senate. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  2. ^ "C-SPAN's Capitol Questions". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  3. ^ "Proposed Amendments - Constitution Day - College of Arts & Sciences - Clayton State University". Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  4. ^ "Transcript of the Constitution of the United States - Official Text". Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  5. ^ Blackerby, Christine (Winter 2015). "Amending America: Exhibit Shows How Changes in the Constitution Affect the Way Our Democracy Works" (PDF). Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Aministration. 47 (4): 10.
  6. ^ a b c Kleber, John (ed.). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 241. ISBN 9780813128832.
  7. ^ Goldstein, Jared (26 Feb 2017). "How the Constitution Became Christian". Hastings Law Journal. 68 (259): 270.
  8. ^ Lash, Kurt T. (Apr 7, 2014). The Fourteenth Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities of American Citizenship. Cambridge University Press. p. 269. ISBN 9781107023260.
  9. ^ Schaffner, Joan (2005). "The Federal Marriage Amendment: To Protect the Sanctity of Marriage or Destroy Constitutional Democracy". GW Law Faculty Publications. 54 (1487): 10.
  10. ^ Wallenstein, Peter (March 24, 2015). Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law--An American History. St. Martin's Press. pp. 133–135.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Ole R., Holsti (2004). Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy By. University of Michigan. ISBN 0-472-03011-6. Page 17-18
  13. ^ Robert C., Cottrell. Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union.Page 236
  14. ^ Chatfield, Charles (May 1969). "Pacifists and Their Publics: The Politics of a Peace Movement". Midwest Journal of Political Science. 13 (2): 298–312. doi:10.2307/2110180. JSTOR 2110180.
  15. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2005). Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade. Princeton University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 9780691070025.
  16. ^ Tananbaum, Duane (Sep 19, 1988). The Bricker Amendment Controversy: A Test of Eisenhower's Political Leadership. Cornell University Press. pp. 263 pages. ISBN 9780801420375.
  17. ^ "Bricker Amendment". Ohio History Central. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  18. ^ Lemelin, Bernard Lemelin (Winter 1999). "Opposition to the 22nd Amendment: The National Committee Against Limiting the Presidency and its Activities, 1949-1951". Canadian Review of American Studies. University of Toronto Press on behalf of the Canadian Association for American Studies with the support of Carleton University. 29 (3): 133–148. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  19. ^ Reagan, Ronald (January 18, 1989). "President Reagan Says He Will Fight to Repeal 22nd Amendment". NBC Nightly News (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Brokaw. New York: NBC. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  20. ^ "Clinton: I Would've Won Third Term". ABC News. December 7, 2000. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  21. ^ Neale, Thomas H. (October 19, 2009). "Presidential Terms and Tenure: Perspectives and Proposals for Change" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  22. ^ "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President. (2013; 113th Congress H.J.Res. 15) -". Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  23. ^ "Sen. Byrd introduces amendment allowing school prayer". Associated Press. 2006-04-30. Archived from the original on 2009-01-25. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  24. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (1996-07-16). "Republicans in Congress Renew Push for Vote on School Prayer Amendment". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  25. ^ Van Biema, David (1998-04-27). "Spiriting Prayer Into School". Time. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  26. ^ "Votes in Congress". The New York Times. 1998-06-07. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  27. ^ Pieper, Troy (June 1996). "Playing With Fire: The Proposed Flag Burning Amendment and the Perennial Attack on Freedom of Speech". Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development. 11 (3). 25.
  28. ^ Staff Writer (June 28, 2006). "Senate Rejects Flag Desecration Amendment". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ For a more detailed account of this proposal read The Politics of Electoral College Reform by Lawrence D. Longley and Alan G. Braun (1972)
  30. ^ "House Unit Votes To Drop Electors". The New York Times. April 30, 1969. p. 1.
  31. ^ "House Approves Direct Election of The President". The New York Times. September 19, 1969. p. 1.
  32. ^ "Senate Debating Direct Election". The New York Times. September 9, 1970. p. 10.
  33. ^ a b Weaver, Warren (September 18, 1970). "Senate Refuses To Halt Debate On Direct Voting". The New York Times. p. 1.
  34. ^ "Abortion Amendment Voted by Senate Panel". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 26, 1983.
  35. ^ ROBERTS, STEVEN (April 4, 1983). "FULL SENATE GETS ABORTION MEASURE". The New York Times.
  36. ^ Granberg, Donald (June 1985). "The United States Senate Votes to Uphold Roe versus Wade". Population Research and Policy Review. Springer. 4 (2): 115–131.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ a b c Istook, Ernest (July 14, 2011). "Considering a Balanced Budget Amendment: Lessons from History". Heritage Foundation. Heritage Foundation.
  39. ^ Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (24 October 2003). "The 'Arnold Amendment'". CBS News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  40. ^ "'Amend for Arnold' campaign launched". Retrieved 2016-08-01.
  41. ^ Associated Press (30 November 2004). "Foreign-Born President Amendment Sought". Fox News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  42. ^ Hulse, Carl; Kirkpatrick, David D. (July 9, 2004). "The 2004 Campaign: The Marriage Issues; Conservatives Press Ahead on Anti-Gay Issue". The New York Times.
  43. ^ Cillizza, Chris (January 22, 2014). "How Citizens United changed politics, in 7 charts". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-01-24. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  44. ^ 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 88 at
  45. ^ Remsen, Nancy (December 8, 2011). "Sen. Bernie Sanders, I–Vt., offers constitutional amendment on corporate "citizenship"". The Burlington Free Press. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012.
  46. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment
  47. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment. 8 Dec 2011. Sanders Senate web site
  48. ^ "H.J.Res. 29, 113th Congress - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only". Library of Congress.
  49. ^ "H.J.Res. 48, 114th Congress - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only". Library of Congress.
  50. ^ "H.J.Res. 48, 115th Congress - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only". Library of Congress.

External links[edit]