Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

The top 10 amendments that haven't made it (yet)

October 14, 2010 by Dr. Steve Frank


Thousands of amendments have been proposed in Congress over the years. Few are sent to the states for approval, and even fewer are ratified.

Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the Constitution has been amended only 17 times, an average of about one amendment every 13 years. In fact, we haven't had a new amendment since 1992, making us a few years overdue for some new ink on our governing document.

Which amendment will be lucky number 28? Here's a Top 10 list of amendments frequently proposed but never adopted:

10. Permit Immigrants to Become President

The Constitution requires that the president be at least 35 years old, have resided in the United States for at least 14 years and be a “natural born citizen.” The most popular proposal affecting presidential qualifications, first offered in the 1860s, would allow foreign-born citizens to be eligible after being American citizens and residents for a specified number of years.

9. Congressional Term Limits

In 1951, the states ratified the 22nd Amendment, limiting the service of president to two full terms. Ever since, proposal have periodically been introduced to limit the terms that members of Congress can serve.

8. Flag Desecration


Photo credit: Flickr user eviltomthai

The Supreme Court's controversial decision in Texas v. Johnson (1989) protecting flag-burning as a form of free speech prompted numerous calls for a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration.

7. Right to Life

From the time of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) few issues have proved to be more emotionally wrenching or divisive than abortion. Over the years hundreds of proposals have been introduced in Congress to restrict abortion, and at least 19 states have called for a constitutional convention to address this issue.

6. Prayer in Schools

Few Supreme Court decisions have stirred more calls for a constitutional amendment than its ruling in Engel v. Vitale (1962) prohibiting prayer in schools.

5. Line Item Veto

By far the most popular proposed reform of the President's veto power has been the proposal for a line-item budget veto, similar to that exercised by many state governors.

4. Balanced Budget


Credit: Flickr user kevinkrejci

Since at least the 1970s, Congress has considered numerous proposals to require a balanced federal budget and prohibit deficit spending. Most states have such a requirement in their constitutions.

3. English Language Amendment

Since the 1980s dozens of proposals have been introduced in Congress to make English the official language of the United States. Proponents see such an amendment as a way to promote national unity; critics fear that it could be used to discriminate against people for whom English is a second language.

2. Electoral College Reform

No amendment effort has been more consistent than that to reform the Electoral College. More than 850 proposals have been offered in Congress, making this second in overall numbers only to ...

1. Equal Rights Amendment

No amendment has been introduced in Congress more frequently than the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Since its first introduction by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment has been sponsored several hundred times. The ERA proposed by Congress in 1972 fell three states short of the approval by 38 states required for ratification.

Thanks to the Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments for the information.


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