Proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution seldom go anywhere

Source: Pew Research Center

U.S. politicians say they revere the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of ideas for changing it. Since 1999, 742 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been introduced in the House or Senate, including 59 so far in the current Congress, according to our analysis ahead of Constitution Day on Sunday.

The proposals cover dozens of topics, from lengthening House terms (from two years to four) to prohibiting any future attempt to replace the U.S. dollar with a hypothetical global currency. But not one has become part of the Constitution. In fact, the last time a proposed amendment gained the necessary two-thirds support in both the House and Senate was 1978, when a measure giving District of Columbia residents voting representation in Congresswas sent to the states for ratification. Only 16 states had ratified it when the seven-year time limit expired.

Indeed, the vast majority of proposed amendments die quiet, little-mourned deaths in committees and subcommittees. Only 20 times since 1999 have proposed amendments even been voted on by the full House or Senate, according to our analysis of legislative data from the Library of Congress. The most recent instance was three years ago this month, when a campaign-finance amendment failed in the Senate on a procedural vote.

One proposed amendment did come close to congressional adoption. During each term of Congress from 1999 to 2006, the House approved an amendment banning flag desecration, only to see it die in the Senate – though the last time, in 2006, the Senate version fell just one vote short of the two-thirds requirement.

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