Constitution Daily

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A short list of constitutional amendments proposed in the current Congress

July 7, 2016 by Scott Bomboy


Recently, a member of the House of Representatives from New York state proposed eliminating recess appointments from the Constitution, the latest of some interesting constitutional changes introduced in the 114th Congress.

Joint_Session_of_Congress535Chris Collins, a Republican from New York’s 27th District near Buffalo, cited the potential for a President to abuse Article II, Section II of the Constitution, which says “the President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

“Two-hundred years ago, we had a part-time Congress and no rapid transit, they had to keep the country running,” Collins told the Batavia Daily News. “Clearly we have now seen potential for abuse and the issue doesn’t apply. We could be back in a day’s notice ... there’s no way to justify it in 2016.”

Collins told the Daily News his concern was that future President would interpret the clause to pack the Supreme Court with like-minded Justices during what was perceived to be a recess. His proposed amendment would mandate that the Senate, in all cases, approve officials nominated by the White House for confirmation.

Representative Collins faces long odds in the Congress, to start with, if his amendment proposal is to make it to a full vote in the House and Senate for approval.

Since 1789, just 27 amendments have been added to the Constitution, with 10 of those amendments arriving with the Bill of Right’s ratification in 1791. (The 18th Amendment was also repealed when Prohibition ended.)

More than 11,000 amendments have been proposed in congressional history, according to the Senate’s historian and 37 of those proposed amendments were approved by Congress for submission to the states.

But that doesn’t mean that every amendment cause is a lost cause. In 1992, the 27th Amendment, which was first proposed as part of the Bill of Rights, was finally ratified after a groundswell of support against congressional pay raises.

So what is being proposed in the current Congress? Amendments about balanced budgets, term limits and campaign financing seem to be very popular in the current political environment.

Here’s a quick look at a few interesting proposals when we recently checked, which lists resolutions offered in the current Congress.

1. An amendment to better define Article V, which allows amendments to happen

Rep. John Abney Culberson of Texas wants an amendment to confirm that the proper number of states, under Article V of the Constitution, can hold a constitutional convention restricted to just one new amendment to the Constitution. This would prevent a “runaway convention” scenario where a convention of the states could overhaul much of the Constitution.

2. No more federal income tax

Rep. Steve King is not a big fan of the 16th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913 and made it clear that Congress had the right to levy a national income tax.

His proposal is to repeal the 16th Amendment entirely. The resolution was sent to a House subcommittee in January 2015, where it has remained.

3. Another attempt to ban American flag burning

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana reintroduced a proposed amendment to ban desecration of the American flag. If this sounds familiar, in 2006 the same amendment failed in the Senate by just one vote after the House easily passed it with a two-thirds majority vote. Since then, the proposed amendment hasn’t gotten a full vote in Congress again.

4. The return of the Equal Rights Amendment

Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York is proposing another attempt at the ERA, which “declares that women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction” and “prohibits the United States or any state from denying or abridging equal rights under the law on account of sex.”

As you’ll recall, Congress easily passed a version of the ERA in 1972 that was also supported by President Richard Nixon. After an initial rush of states to ratify the amendment, it stalled after 35 of the 38 required states approved it. Congress extended the ratification deadline to 1982, but the proposed amendment was never approved by three-quarters of the states.

Other proposed amendments in this Congress include measures to protect the right to life and an amendment that would allow two-thirds of the states to negate a federal law.

Scott Bomboy is the editor in chief of the National Constitution Center.

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