What is a Constitutional Amendment?

A Constitutional amendment is a very rigid change to the Constitution that, unlike a simple law, requires a tremendous amount of work and detail to change it. In essence, an amendment changes the way the country is run. For example, the seventeenth amendment made it understood that each state was going to have two senators and these senators would have a term length of six years before having to run for reelection. This amendment was signed into law in 1912. That’s almost one hundred years ago and this law is still set in stone. There are drinking laws that are newer than this.

How to Create an Amendment?

An amendment is just a document that says what procedures need to be changed. When talking about the seventeenth, someone felt it was necessary that the senators have a term length of six years and that there only be two senators from each state. So, someone went about writing the amendment that had all the details in it: the rules, the loopholes, etc, etc. Amendments are typically very detailed.

Once this was done, the amendment was brought before the House of Representatives. To get anywhere, the first step was to get approval by the House. If the amendment gained a two thirds majority, then the amendment went on to the Senate. If, for whatever reason, it didn’t get two thirds there, the amendment was dropped and it went back to the drawing board. However, in the case of the 17th amendment, the Senate approved it as well which meant that it had survived both Houses. The tricky part, though, appears afterwards.

For the constitution to be amended, three fourths of the States must vote in majority for the bill. There are two ways for this vote to occur. It can either be the state legislators that are voting, in which case the elected officials of each state get together and determine if the amendment is good. So, it’s as if the bill went from the two largest houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate) and is now trickling down into the smaller houses per state.

The second way is to call a constitutional convention. This means that there is the opportunity for the general public to vote on the amendment rather than leave it up to the legislators. However, this has only ever happened once (the 21st) and therefore, the typical method is to have the state legislators vote. This is a simple majority. There is no need for two thirds or three fourths per state. As long as there is a majority for the amendment, that state is now one of the three fourths in favor of it.

It should be noted that at no time does the President do anything in an amendment. He may express his opinion about it, but in the end, a Constitutional Amendment is entirely up to the legislation and the people. If the people and legislation want it and three fourths of the states vote for it, it becomes a part of the constitution. If they don’t vote for it, it fails and someone else can try again another time.

How Do I Propose an Amendment?

As mentioned in the previous section, the process is typically that the Congress proposes an amendment and then the legislation in the state vote for it. However, there are four ways to propose an amendment:

  • State conventions propose, ratified by state conventions (never used)
  • State conventions propose, ratified by state legislation (never used)
  • Congress propose, ratified by state conventions (used once)
  • Congress propose, ratified by state legislation (always used)

In the end, the method in which an amendment is proposed is entirely up to the law makers. Congress has always proposed it in the past, but that doesn’t mean that in the future, a state convention may propose it. In law, it is allowed for the state convention to propose it. It may happen one day.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.6/10 (5 votes cast)