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Constitution Monday: Roosevelt Amendment

Here is the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XXII

Passed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.

Section 1.
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

Until this amendment was ratified in 1951, there was no limit to the number of terms a President could serve if he or she kept getting reelected. President Washington could likely have been President for Life on the installment plan by running every four years. Thankfully he set us a different example by stepping down after two terms.

No President served more than two terms until the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who died in office during his fourth term.

The 22nd Amendment is often called the “Roosevelt Amendment” because it was passed to prevent future Presidents from serving more than two terms as FDR had.

Although my personal feeling is that most people are happy with the two-term limit for President, at least some have argued against it. James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn claimed in 2006 that the 22nd Amendment actually acts against accountability. What do you think?

References:

FDR Biography from National Park Service – http://www.nps.gov/fdrm/fdr/biography.htm

No More Second Term Blues by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn, New York Times, January 5, 2006. – http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/05/opinion/05burns.html

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Constitution Monday: Constitutional Change Works!

Here is the 21th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XXI

Passed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933.

Section 1.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Here is further proof that our Constitution is flexible and that when people and politicians shift from grumbling about perceived faults and passing ineffective statutes to taking on the hard work called for by Article V, the Supreme Law of the Land changes.

This amendment repealed the nationwide prohibition on alcohol established by the 18th Amendment. Section two of this legislation preserves the right of state and local governments to pass their own prohibitions. That’s part of why Utah and some Alaskan towns can have restrictive alcohol laws even though Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Constitution Monday: Shortening the Lame Duck

Here is the 20th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XX

Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933.

Note: Article I, section 4, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of this amendment. In addition, a portion of the 12th amendment was superseded by section 3.

Section 1.
The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3.
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section 4.
The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Section 5.
Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

Prior to the passage of this amendment, the President and Vice President did not take office till March. If you think that waiting from November to January is a time of worry, be glad the 1930s Congress decided to shorten the transition time.

This amendment also addressed what to do if either the President or Vice-President keeled over dead before taking office.

Constitution Monday: Women Can Vote in Federal Elections

Here is the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XIX

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Prior to this amendment, women were not allowed to vote in federal elections and were barred from voting in most states and territories.  Among the exceptions to this was the Territory of Alaska, which extended full voting rights to women in 1913.  To learn more about the Women’s sufferage (voting) movement using primary sources, check out the lessons included in a Teacher’s plan from the Library of Congress at http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/99/suffrage/intro.html.

Constitution Monday: When the Whole Country Was Dry

Here is the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XVIII

Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.

Section 1.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

You may have noticed that in most parts of the United States you can buy any kind of alcohol you want these days. Are liquor stores flouting the Constitution? Not at all. When this country decided that Prohibition on a national scale wasn’t working, people used the Amendment process provided for in Article V and eventually passed the 21st Amendment, which we will be considering in a future edition of Constitution Monday.

So if part of the Constitution irks you, start writing your Congressional Delegation and state legislators to get it changed. It can and has happened when there has been broad support for changing it.

Constitution Monday: Direct Election of Senators

Here is the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

AMENDMENT XVII

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

These days we taking voting for our Senators for granted and many of us assume that’s just the way it’s always been. But it’s only been true for less than half the lifetime of our country. Before 1913, Senators were elected by their state legislatures. It was built that way into the original Constitution as a way of protecting States rights. The House of Representatives was considered “the people’s house” while the Senate consisted of men expected to follow the wishes of their state governments.

By the early 1900s it was widely felt that the US Senate was wildly out of touch with people back home and in the grip of special interests. The backers of the 17th Amendment felt that making Senators directly accountable to the voters of their state would break this close alliance with special interests. It was an experiment. Do you think we’re better off? Should we go back to indirect elections? If not, what should we do?

Constitution Monday: Why A Federal Income Tax

As I noted last week, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed by Congress February 26, 1869 and ratified on February 3, 1870. It would be forty years before another Constitutional amendment was passed by Congress and another four years after that before the 16th Amendment was added to our Constitution. And what an Amendment! Here is the text:

AMENDMENT XVI

Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 9, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 16.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Are there 30 words in the English language that have provoked more angst, anger and cursing? I don’t think so. And yet it is highly unlikely that the United States would have become the world’s undisputed military superpower without the funds made available by the 13th Amendment.

Some have argued that the 16th Amendment was not properly ratified and therefore, there is no obligation to pay federal income taxes. I agree with the Straight Dope on this issue. Pay your taxes. Especially if you support government programs either military or civilian that are expensive.

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