Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Some Things I Didn't Know About the US Constitution

I was just looking at some stuff about the US Constitution on wikipedia, and learned a few interesting things.

I did not know that the most recent amendment to the Constitution, the Twenty-Seventh, was originally proposed in 1789 but only ratified and added to the Constitution in 1992, over 200 years later! Unless a time limit is specifically placed on the ratification of an Amendment, it apparently remains before the States forever. In fact, there are apparently some Amendments still technically awaiting ratification, including the Titles of Nobility Amendment (approved by Congress in 1810 which was ratified by 12 States) and the Child Labor Amendment (approved by Congress on 1924 and ratified by 28 States). Apparently, if 26 more States ratified the Titles of Nobility Amendment or 10 more the Child Labor Amendment, they would become part of the Constitution. Who knew?

The first amendment proposed to the Constitution, called the "Article the First," which wasn't adopted, set how many people a Representative in Congress could represent in his or her district. Had the Article been adopted, with the current US population, there would be around 6,000 members in the House of Representatives! People think Congress doesn't do much now, can you imagine?

Right now there's a bill stalled in the House to give the District of Columbia a vote in the House of Representatives. It's probably unconstitutional, since the Constitution doesn't allow for non-States to have voting members in Congress. What I didn't realize is that a Constitutional amendment was proposed back in the Seventies to give DC a representative, but it failed to get ratified before it expired in 1984.

The Constitution requires an Amendment to be ratified by three-fourths of the States (either by the legislature or by a constitutional convention in each State). It doesn't say anything, however, about whether a State can rescind ratification after it has ratified an Amendment. Congress has decided that they can't, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it isn't something the Courts can decide. So, as it stands, it appears that States can reject an Amendment at first but then later ratify it, but they can't rescind ratification once given. Interesting.

Just some things I didn't know.