Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution

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The Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XXVII) has to do with the salaries paid to members of the United States Congress.

Congress is made of two "Houses," and the members of each House serve different terms (amounts of time in office). Members of the United States Senate serve six-year terms, and members of the United States House of Representatives serve two years each. The Twenty-seventh Amendment says that no law can change Congresspeople's salaries until a new two-year term for Representatives starts.

As of 2016, the Twenty-seventh amendment is the last amendment that has been added to the Constitution. It took longer for the states to ratify this amendment than any other in history.[a] The 1st United States Congress sent the suggested amendment to the states for their approval on September 25, 1789. It was not until May 7, 1992, that enough states ratified the amendment for it to be added to the Constitution. The ratification process had taken 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days – the longest in United States history.[2]

Text[change | change source]

When Congress first proposed the amendment in 1789, this is the text they suggested:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.[2]

History[change | change source]

On September 25, 1789, the first United States Congress gave a group of 12 amendments to the states for their approval. Written by James Madison, these were the first 12 Constitutional amendments ever written. One of them was an amendment about salaries for Members of Congress.[3] Madison wanted to protect against Congresspeople being able to give themselves raises whenever they wanted to, while they were in the middle of their terms and the people could not vote them out.[3]

In 1791, the states ratified ten of the 12 suggested amendments. These ten amendments became the Bill of Rights. However, the state did not ratify the other two amendments out of the 12 – including the one on limiting pay for Congresspeople.[3]

Proposal and ratification[change | change source]

Proposal by Congress[change | change source]

James Madison first proposed this amendment in the United States House of Representatives on June 8, 1789.[4] On August 24, 1789, the House passed the suggested amendment and sixteen others. The proposals went next to the United States Senate, which made 26 different changes to the House's suggested amendments. After taking out some parts of the House amendments, and combining others, the Senate approved a package of twelve suggested amendments on September 9, 1789.[5]

     Ratified Amendment between 1789–1792      Ratified Amendment, 1873      Ratified Amendment, 1978–1991      Ratified Amendment, May 1992      Ratified Amendment after it was enacted, 1992–95      Ratified Amendment twice (NC: 1789/1989; KY: 1792/1996)      Never ratified the Amendment

Now a committee of House and Senate members had to meet to figure out a compromise and come up with amendments that they could all agree on. After three days, they had come up with 12 suggested amendments, which they brought back to the full House and Senate. That same day – September 24, 1789 – the House agreed on the 12 proposed amendments. The next day, the Senate agreed too. The 12 amendments included the one on Congressional pay.[6]

Ratification by the states[change | change source]

Congress sent the package of 12 amendments to the states on September 25, 1789. For these amendments to be added to the Constitution, three-fourths of the state legislatures would have to ratify (approve) the amendments. At the time, there were only 11 states (North Carolina and Rhode Island had not ratified the Constitution yet[b]).[7] This meant just nine states would have to approve the amendments to add them to the Constitution.

On December 15, 1791, the states ratified ten of the twelve suggested amendments. These got added to the Constitution together as the Bill of Rights. However, at this time, only six states had ratified the Congressional pay amendment.

Over the next 186 years, only two more states ratified the Amendment. Meanwhile, many more states joined the United States. This meant that a larger number of states would need to ratify the amendment to get it added to the Constitution, since three-fourths of the state legislatures needed to ratify it, and there were more and more states as time went on.

The states ratified the Amendment in this order:[8]

Order State Date Years
Since 1789
Notes
1 Maryland December 19, 1789 0
2 North Carolina December 22, 1789 0 Reaffirmed (re-signed) July 4, 1989[9]
3 South Carolina January 19, 1790 1
4 Delaware January 28, 1790 1
5 Vermont November 3, 1791 2
6 Virginia December 15, 1791 2
Kentucky June 27, 1792 3 Ratification was unknown until 1992[c]; Reaffirmed March 21, 1996
7 Ohio May 6, 1873 84 Ratified as a protest against the 1873 "Salary Grab Act"[12]
8 Wyoming March 6, 1978 189 Ratified as a protest against a Congressional pay raise[13]
9 Maine April 27, 1983 194
10 Colorado April 22, 1984 195
11 South Dakota February 21, 1985 196
12 New Hampshire March 7, 1985 196 State had rejected ratification in 1790[14]
13 Arizona April 3, 1985 196
14 Tennessee May 28, 1985 196
15 Oklahoma July 1, 1985 196
16 New Mexico February 14, 1986 197
17 Indiana February 24, 1986 197
18 Utah February 25, 1986 197
19 Arkansas March 13, 1987 198
20 Montana March 17, 1987 198
21 Connecticut May 13, 1987 198
22 Wisconsin July 15, 1987 198
23 Georgia February 2, 1988 199
24 West Virginia March 10, 1988 199
25 Louisiana July 7, 1988 199
26 Iowa February 9, 1989 199
27 Idaho March 23, 1989 199
28 Nevada April 26, 1989 199
29 Alaska May 6, 1989 199
30 Oregon May 19, 1989 199
31 Minnesota May 22, 1989 199
32 Texas May 25, 1989 199
33 Kansas April 5, 1990 200
34 Florida May 31, 1990 200
35 North Dakota March 25, 1991 201
36 Alabama May 5, 1992 202
37 Missouri May 5, 1992 202
38 Michigan May 7, 1992 202
Amendment added to the Constitution: May 7, 1992
New Jersey May 7, 1992 202 State rejected the Amendment in 1789[14]
Illinois May 12, 1992 202
California June 26, 1992 202
Rhode Island June 10, 1993 203 State rejected the Amendment in 1790[14]
Hawaii April 29, 1994 204
Washington April 6, 1995 205
Never ratified the Amendment
Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania

Notes[change | change source]

  1. For an amendment to be added to the Constitution, two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, and then three-fourths of the state legislatures, have to agree on it.[1] There are a few other ways for amendments to be ratified,[1] but they are very uncommon. See the page on Article Five of the United States Constitution for more information.
  2. See the page on Article Seven of the United States Constitution for more details.
  3. Kentucky should have been counted as the 7th state to ratify the Amendment. However, it was not until 1992 that anybody realized Kentucky ratified the Amendment in 1792. By then, the Archivist of the United States had already confirmed that the Amendment was added to the Constitution on May 7, 1992, when Michigan ratified it. Officially, though, if Alabama were included, the Amendment would have been ratified on May 5, 1992, when Missouri signed.[10][11]

Reference[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "U.S. Constitution: Article V". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11-27". Charters of Freedom. United States National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Historical Highlights: The 27th Amendment". Office of History, Art, and Archives. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  4. Representative James Madison (June 8, 1789). Speech Proposing Amendments to the Constitution (Speech). United States House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/madison_17890608/#. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  5. Labunski, Richard E. (2006). James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights. Oxford University Press. pp. 235–237. ISBN 978-0-19-518105-0.
  6. Schwartz, Bernard (2002). The Great Rights of Mankind: A History of the American Bill of Rights. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 186. ISBN 0-945612-28-1.
  7. "The States and the Ratification Process". Center for the Study of the American Constitution. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  8. Congressional Research Service (Kenneth R. Thomas and Larry M. Eig (eds.)) (2013). The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (PDF) (Report). United States Government Printing Office. pp. 44, 2273–2274. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  9. "House Bill 1052 / S.L. 1989-572: Ratify Congressional Pay Amendment, 1989-1990 Session". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  10. "Congressional Record, 102nd Congress (1991-1992): The Pay Amendment". THOMAS. United States Library of Congress. May 19, 1992. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  11. Flanigan, Timothy E. (1992). "Memorandum Opinion for the Counsel to the President". Office of Legal Counsel. United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on April 14, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  12. Dean, John W. (September 27, 2002). "The Telling Tale of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment". FindLaw. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  13. "The Sleeper Wakes: The History and Legacy of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment". Fordham Law Review 61 (3): 497-557. 1992. http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3017&context=flr. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 James J. Kilpatrick, ed. (1961). The Constitution of the United States and Amendments Thereto. Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government. p. 64. ASIN B000JWI5Y2.