Understanding the 27th Amendment

Understanding the 27th Amendment

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Understanding the 27th Amendment

The Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution is by far the longest any Constitutional Amendment has taken to be ratified by the states. Its initial proposal began in 1789, and it took over two hundred years to complete the ratification process, finally ending in 1992.

The 27th Amendment deals with the salary of the members of Congress. It prohibits any law from increasing or decreasing the salary from taking effect and being implemented until the next term of office for the House of Representatives. The 27th Amendment is the most recent Constitutional Amendment to have been ratified, occurring on May 5th, 1992. Its proposal was submitted on September 25th, 1789.

The 27th Amendment was created with the purpose of limiting the power of the members of Congress to pass laws that would affect pay increases in their salaries which would create an obvious conflict of interest. The restriction would be necessary in order for Congress to keep in mind the needs of the people of the United States rather than their own.

The 27th Amendment would require that any call for salary increases to be imposed were to occur after an election. This would prevent members of Congress from immediately causing a salary increase when elected into office. In other words, Representatives must survive the election process before a raise in salary can take effect. 

The provisions held within the 27th Amendment were originally discussed in the North Carolina convention held in 1788, which was held for the purpose of discussing the Constitution itself. The 27th Amendment was originally drafted and proposed by James Madison, but it was not ratified by the necessary number of states. Only six states would approve ratification: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont, and Virginia; a total of ten was required for ratification. It was during this time that the first ten Constitutional Amendments were ratified, which would eventually become the United States Bill of Rights. 

The 27th Amendment has a peculiar history because of the simple fact that it took hundreds of years to be ratified. The proposal for this Constitutional Amendment was considered to be discarded and invalid during most of the time between its initial proposal and final ratification. A student from the University of Texas, Gregory Watson, can be attributed with having reawakened and sparked life back into what would become the 27th Amendment.

In 1982, Watson would stumble upon the legislation and make it the topic of a research paper. He would eventually set out to devote his personal time and efforts to make the ratification of this Constitutional Amendment a reality. During this time, pay raises would become the focus of public debates and disputes that were instituted by State legislatures.

The concern would once again be turned to the salaries of Congress. States would begin to reconsider the Constitutional Amendment, but because its initial introduction some 200 years prior, many did not believe that the legislation would ever be ratified. However, by May 7th, 1992, Michigan would become the necessary thirty-eighth state to ratify the provision, thus making it the 27th Amendment. 

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