Political Education

How Often is the United States Constitution Amended?

How often is the United States Constitution amended? The US Constitution has a mechanism that allows Congress and the states to change the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was a commitment to some delegates at the Constitutional Convention for the states to ratify the Constitution.

To amend the Constitution of the United States, one of two series of events must happen. The more usual path is that a Congressperson will bring an amendment to the US House of Representatives or the US Senate floor. The Amendment will have to pass the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority. The proposed Amendment would then go to the states and have to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures or conventions the state calls specifically to pass a constitutional amendment. That means thirty-eight states have to pass the Amendment to become law. The other legal way for an amendment to the Constitution has never happened. Two-thirds of the states (currently thirty-four) must propose and pass an amendment in a convention of states.

Between 1789 and January 2019, approximately 11,770 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed. Of those amendments, only thirty-three amendments have passed the legislature and been sent to the states. As of 2022, there are only 27 amendments to the US constitution.

In the 1780s and 1790s, the states ratified the first eleven amendments. The 12th Amendment was approved in 1804. Four amendments were confirmed in the 1860s, and seven Amendments were ratified between 19013 and 1951. Between 1961 and 1971, four more amendments were approved. The 27th Amendment was ratified due to the efforts of one person Gregory Watson.

The 27th Amendment prevents Congress from raising their salary during the current congressional term. Any pay raises that congress passes would take effect after the next election. This Amendment was first proposed in 1789 and wasn’t ratified. The Amendment was considered dead until a university student in 1982 received a ‘C’ on a paper arguing this Amendment was still “live” and could be passed. He began a campaign to pass the Amendment ten years after receiving the ‘C’ grade.

So to answer the original question, amendments to the Constitution are proposed often but rarely become law.

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