Understanding the Constitutional Amendment Process

Americans, we are not without power in the fight to safeguard liberty against federal government growth and encroachment. Our Founders distrusted strong centralized government. To allow for needed change and as an additional safeguard against federal abuse, they authorized both the Congress and the States to initiate the process of amending the Constitution. This powerful tool enables the People to lobby their elected representatives and/or their state legislature for a change to the United States Constitution. Collectively, the People and the States are supreme over the federal government.

The procedure for amending the Constitution is specified under Article V of the Constitution. A quick read will identify the only two amendment procedures allowed: The proposed amendment must originate either by (1) a two thirds vote of both chambers of Congress or through (2) the establishment of a “Convention to Propose Amendments” mandated by the Legislatures in two thirds of the States:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress . . . (Article V of the Constitution)

The amendment process does not end here. Proposed amendments must be ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of all States before they become part of the Constitution. After ratification an Amendment becomes part of the Constitution and is the supreme law of the land.

Because amending the Constitution is a very serious move, the amendment process was made difficult by design. In the more than 230 years of governance under our Constitution, hundreds of amendments have been proposed but only 27 have been ratified. Surprisingly, none of these Amendments were the result of a Convention to Propose Amendments.

The amendment power is real and allows the People and the States to take action and force significant change on the federal government. Thankfully, in their wisdom, the Founders created this powerful tool for we the People.

We can reduce the scope of our federal government. Let us take this authority seriously and use it!

Additional Information

For an informative overview of the Amendment process in general and a more in-depth discussion of the Convention to Propose Amendments power, see Rob Natelson’s article entitled “A Safeguard Against Federal Abuse.”

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