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Twentieth Amendment

Twentieth Amendment

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Twentieth Amendment

The
Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in regards to the terms of
elected Federal officials, including the President, Vice-President, and members
of Congress. Specifically, it defines the actual dates on which those terms
begin and end. The 20th Amendment also provides for guidelines to be followed
in the scenario that there is no President-Elect. The Twentieth Amendment was
ratified into the U.S. Constitution on January 23, 1933.

Of the Amendments to the Constitution, it is of peculiar
interest that the terms of elected Federal officials remained unchanged or
unrevised until 1933, when the Twentieth Amendment was ratified. It provides
for important provisions that, at first glance, seem to have been crucial enough
to be addressed in earlier times.

The
Twentieth Amendment is divided into six sections, with the first four
containing the substance of the proposed changes in legislature. The first
section details that the terms of the President and Vice President are to end
at noon on January 20th, and at noon on January 3rd for Senators and
Representatives. The terms for the President and Vice President consist of a
length of four years, while members of Congress retain their positions for a
period of six years.

The second section
mandates that Congress is to meet at least once a year, with the one meeting
being on noon of the 3rd of January, which would be the first meeting with new
Congress members in the event of the start of a new term. The situation arising
of no President-Elect is addressed in Section Three of the Twentieth Amendment
to the Constitution. If the President-Elect is to die before the term begins on
the specified date, the Vice President-Elect is to become President. This
situation also applies if the President-Elect has been chosen by the beginning
of the term or if the President fails to qualify.

In the
extenuating circumstance that both the President and Vice President-Elect fail
to qualify, Congress is allowed by law to declare who is to become President
until a President or Vice President are to qualify for office. In the case that
a person from the House of Representatives dies who has the responsibility to
choose a President, and similarly for the person of the Senate choosing a Vice
President, then Congress is allowed by law to undertake such responsibilities.

Finally, sections
five and six provide for a date on which the first two sections are to be
enacted, being the 15th of October after the ratification of the Twentieth
Amendment. The Amendment itself would have a period of seven years in which it
would have to ratified. Otherwise, it would be discarded.

The Amendments to the Constitution regarding the
terms of elected Federal officials changed the date on which a term was to
begin, which was originally March 4th, four months after the actual elections
were held. The implemented date was a consideration for the new officials in
providing for ample time in order to move to the nation’s capital. However, in
modern times, this lapse in time would prove to be a hindrance rather than a
positive consideration.

Furthermore,
Congressmen that were elected prior to the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution would actually not enter office until over a year after their
election. The lapse in time would produce what are referred to as “lame
duck” sessions held by Congress, which were unproductive and obsolete.
Particularly importance instances which marked the need for the Twentieth
Amendment would be the secession of the Southern states and the Great
Depression, in which the new elected officials would have to wait four months
before they could address these serious concerns.

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