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

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

  • 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. 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[6]. The South's reaction to the rejection paved the way for the secession of the Confederate states and the American Civil War.
  • 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.
  • 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.

20th century proposals

  • 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 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.[7]
  • Ludlow Amendment was proposed by Representative Louis Ludlow in 1937. This amendment would have heavily reduced America's ability to be involved in war.
  • 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 a single vote.[8]
  • 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.

21st century proposals

  • A balanced budget amendment, in which Congress and the President are forced to balance the budget every year, has been introduced many times.[9]
  • 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."[10]
  • 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.[11]
  • Every Vote Counts Amendment – proposed by Congressman Gene Green on September 14, 2004. It would abolish the electoral college.[12]
  • 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,[13] Senator John Cornyn introduced an amendment to allow Congress to temporarily replace members after at least a quarter of either chamber is incapacitated.[14]
  • 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 numerous times since the mid-1950s, by various members of Congress, including Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. José Serrano,[15] Rep. Howard Berman, and Sen. Harry Reid.[16] Each of these proposals died in the comittee to which it had been assigned without being given any serious consideration. The current amendment limits the number of times a person is eligible for election to the presidency—two times—and also limits the eligibility for subsequent election to that office of a person who becomes president intra-term (depending on the length of time remaining in their predecessor's unfinished term). The most recent repeal attempt was launched by Rep. Serrano in 2013, during the 113th Congress.[17]
  • On January 16, 2009, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana proposed an amendment which would have denied U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the US unless at least one parent were a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident, or in the armed forces.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[22][23][24]
  • Representative 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,[25] 108th,[26] 109th,[27] 110th,[28] 111th[29] and 112th Congresses,[30] all of which died in committee. On May 13, 2013, Reps. Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison re-introduced the bill.[31]
  • The We the People Amendment was introduced in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses. This amendment proposes that (1) rights under the Constitution belong to natural persons only, (2) artificial entities (such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other incorporated entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state) have no rights under the Constitution and are subject to regulation through federal, state, or local law and (3) the privileges of such entities cannot be construed as inherent or inalienable. It would also require federal, state, and local governments to (1) regulate, limit, or prohibit political contributions or expenditures, including those made by a candidate, (2) require public disclosure of political contributions and expenditures, and (3) prohibit the judiciary from construing the raising and spending of money to be protected under the First Amendment. Representative Rick Nolan introduced the amendment in the House of Representatives as House Joint Resolution 29 on February 23, 2013, and has re-introduced it twice as House Joint Resolution 48, on April 29, 2015 and January 30, 2017. In the 113th Congress, it garnered three co-sponsors from the Democratic Party. In the 114th Congress, it garnered 23 co-sponsors (22 Democrats, one Republican). It currently has 51 co-sponsors (50 Democrats, one Republican) in the 115th Congress, and was sent to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice under the House Committee on the Judiciary.[32][33][34][35]
  • The Democracy For All Amendment, was introduced in both the 113th, and 114th Congresses. It would grant Congress and the States the ability to limit the raising and spending of money in campaigns for public office. It would also grant Congress and the States the ability to distinguish between a natural person and an artificial entity, such as a corporation. The resolution was introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Udall and in the House by Representative Ted Deutch during both Congresses. During the 113th Congress the resolution received 129 co-sponsors in the House (all Democrats), and 48 co-sponsors in the Senate (46 Democrats, two Independents). In the Senate the resolution was never voted on, and in the House it was sent to House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. In the 2015 (114th Congress) version the resolution received 162 co-sponsors (161 Democrats, one Republican) in the House, while in the Senate, the resolution received 42 co-sponsors (40 Democrats, two Independents). The resolution was sent to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and Senate Committee on the Judiciary, but failed to pass either.[36][37][38][39][40]
  • On November 15, 2016, Senator Barbara Boxer of California introduced a proposal to abolish the Electoral College and to provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice President of the United States by the voters in the various states and the District of Columbia.[41][42]

See also


  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. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (March 9, 2016). "We've tried to amend the Constitution 11,000 times, and not all the proposals were good". Washington, D.C.: the Washington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  6. ^ Citation Needed
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Bricker Amendment". Ohio History Central. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 46 at
  11. ^ 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 26 at
  12. ^ "GovTrack: H. J. Res. 103 108th]: Text of Legislation, Introduced in House". Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  13. ^ "Statement of Chairman Orrin G. Hatch Before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary". January 27, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-04-23. 
  14. ^ 109th Congress, S.J.Res. 6 at
  15. ^ 111th Congress, H.J.Res. 5
  16. ^ 101st Congress, S.J.Res. 36
  17. ^ "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. 
  18. ^ 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 6 at
  19. ^ 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 11 at
  20. ^ 111th Congress, S.J.Res. 21 at
  21. ^ 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 88 at
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment
  24. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment. 8 Dec 2011. Sanders Senate web site
  25. ^ 107th Congress, H.J.Res. 72
  26. ^ 108th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
  27. ^ 109th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
  28. ^ 110th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
  29. ^ 111th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
  30. ^ 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 28
  31. ^ Press release (May 13, 2013). "Pocan and Ellison Announce Right to Vote Amendment". Congressman Mark Pocan. 
  32. ^ "H.J.Res. 29 - 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. 
  33. ^ "H.J.Res. 48 - 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. 
  34. ^ "H.J.Res. 48 - 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. 
  35. ^ "We the People Amendment". Move to Amend. 
  36. ^ "S.J.Res.19 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections." Library of Congress. 
  37. ^ "H.J.Res.119 - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections." Library of Congress. 
  38. ^ "The Democracy For All Amendment". Free Speech for People. Retrieved 13 June 2017. 
  39. ^ "S.J.Res.5 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections." Library of Congress. Retrieved 13 June 2017. 
  40. ^ "H.J.Res.22 - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections." Library of Congress. Retrieved 13 June 2017. 
  41. ^ Press release (November 15, 2016). "Boxer Introduces Bill To Abolish The Electoral College". Senator Barbara Boxer. 
  42. ^ 114th Congress, S.J.Res. 41

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