Thursday, February 13, 2014

Proposed Amendments

The U.S. Constitution is an amazing document, but it is nowhere near perfect.

The Constitution is a living and evolving document.  One of the ways that the Constitution is changed is through a grueling amendment process. The process is arduous, antiquated, and tedious...and that's exactly how it should be. Changing the Constitution (and with it the structure of our nation) SHOULD be difficult and cumbersome.  This allows us to avoid knee-jerk reaction to extreme events.

Though out the history of our nation (nearly 240 years and counting) we have only changed our Constitution 27 times. And to be fair, two of those times don't count (once was when we created Prohibition with the 18th Amendment and the second time was 17 years later, when we created the 21st Amendment to get ride of the 18th). 

However, our limited changes to the Constitution aren't from a lack of trying.  Each year, hundreds of constitutional amendments are proposed. Almost never do any of them become actual Amendments. In fact, almost never do any of them even get out of committee.

Before we get to the specifics, it's worth reviewing the process for amending the U.S. Constitution.  

Amendments can be proposed two ways:  '
  1. In Congress or
  2. By a national convention assembled at the request of the request of the two-thirds of the state legislatures.
The national convention approach has been attempted twice but has never been successful.

Below are some examples of unsuccessful Amendments that have been proposed within the 21st century.

  • 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 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")
  • 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, 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,
  • 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 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 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.

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