The Twenty-Seventh Amendment: The Constitutional Amendments

The Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the US Constitution was proposed by the first Congress in 1789, but wasn’t adopted to the Constitution until 1992. The amendment is simple, and deals with Congressional salaries. This is what you need to know about this amendment, why it took so long to become part of the US Constitution, and what it says.

The most recent addition to the US Constitution is the Twenty-Seventh Amendment. This amendment prohibits the enacting of any law that will increase or decrease the salaries of members of the US Congress in both houses from taking effect until the start of the next terms of office of these Congressional members. Basically, current Congressional members cannot benefit from (or be adversely affected by) any law affecting their salary during their current term in office (or possibly while they are in Congress at all, if they are voted out for the next term of Congress, when such changes would take effect under this amendment)

This amendment has the unique distinction of taking the longest to be ratified by the requisite number of states and adopted to the Constitution of any proposed amendment. In fact, it took this amendment almost 203 years to be adopted, from the time it was first proposed, beating the previous record-holder, the Twenty-Second Amendment, by quite a bit, as that one only took nearly four years to be adopted. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment was proposed in September of 1789, by the very first Congress. It was one of twelve initial amendments submitted to the states, which included the first ten that became known as the Bill of Rights. The amendment was not adopted until May 5, 1992.

What Does it Say?

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

What Does it Mean?

After this amendment did not get enough states to ratify it (along with the dropped and forgotten proposed Congressional Apportionment amendment) in 1789, it was mostly forgotten for the next two centuries. In 1982, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin named Gregory Watson wrote a paper for his American Government class in which he argued that this forgotten proposed amendment could still be adopted to the Constitution, as it had never officially been dropped from consideration by the states. After Gregory received a bad grade on this paper, thanks to a teaching assistant who was not convinced by his arguments, Gregory launched his own nationwide campaign to get the amendment adopted to the Constitution.

The campaign was successful, proving Gregory’s theory that it could still be adopted correctly. It was even adopted in the original, brief and simple wording that the First Congress had written it. No changes were made.

The amendment aims to reduce corruption in Congress by mandating an election take place before any salary increases or decreases to Congressional members can take effect. This gives the public the power to vote out certain members of Congress before any salary increases take effect. Congressional members were theorized to be likely to be more motivated to do the work their constituents elected them to do while in Congress if they knew their ability to benefit from any salary increases Congress voted for itself depended on them being re-elected.

Source: Ancestral Findings

Posted On: April 20, 2021 at 08:03AM