The Constitution

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Amendment XXVII

Congressional Compensation

Originally proposed September 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.

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

Interpretation

Annenberg Classroom

AnnenbergClassroom.org

Amendment XXVII prevents members of Congress from granting themselves pay raises during the current session. Rather, any raises that are adopted must take effect during the next session of Congress. Proponents of the amendment believed that legislators are more likely to be cautious about increasing congressional pay if they have no personal stake in the vote. The amendment was introduced in Congress in 1789 by James Madison and sent to the states for ratification at that time.

It was not until 1992 however, after public displeasure with repeated congressional pay increases, that the required three-quarters of the states ratified the measure. Unlike several other recent amendments, which contained a seven-year time limit for ratification by the states (see for example Amendments XX and XXI) Madison’s proposed amendment contained no time limit for ratification.

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Interpretation

Linda Monk

"The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution" (2003)

When James Madison submitted his proposals for a Bill of Rights in 1789, he included a provision that prevented members of Congress from voting themselves a pay raise before the voters had a chance to kick them out of office for doing so. This amendment was approved as one of the twelve amendments submitted to the states on September 25, 1789. Only ten of these were ratified in 1791, and they became known as the Bill of Rights because they mainly protected individual rights. However, Congress had not established an official time limit for ratification of the 1789 amendments. During the 1980s, more and more states ratified the amendment limiting congressional pay raises, and it became the Twenty-seventh Amendment in 1992—the longest ratification in U.S. history.

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