Our United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It governs all of our 50 states, and 315 million people in the United States.
The following transcript is provided for your convenience.
The next lesson: 13th Amendment
This is why our framers established a very high bar for changing or amending the Constitution. You see, it’s very important for the supreme law of the land that will govern over 315 million people in 50 states. It’s extremely important that this governing document has a level of stability, that is, it’s not changing with the winds of change and opinion. But if it does change, it’s changed because there’s been a high degree of deliberation or discussion, and it has a broad consensus for change, or a broad majority.
Now, in Article 5 of the Constitution, the Framers addressed the issue of changing or amending the Constitution. And in that part of the Constitution, they established a two-step process for amending our Constitution. Step one is the proposal phase. Step 2 is the ratification or approval phase. Let’s look at both phases, and begin with phase one, the proposal phase.
Now, under the proposal phase, there are two options for getting the amendment process started. Option one requires a two-thirds vote that is a super majority in both houses of Congress. The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature. You have the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. With a two-thirds majority vote, a proposed amendment can move forward to the ratification phase.
Another option that the Constitution provides in the proposal phase is in a national convention of the state legislatures. If the proposed amendment can get two-thirds vote of the state legislatures in a national convention – that would be 34 state legislatures – again, that proposed amendment will move forward to the next phase: the ratification phase.
Now, looking at the ratification phase, you also have two options in Article 5 of the Constitution. One option is if the proposed amendment gets three-fourths of the state legislatures to approve it, or 38 state legislatures, that proposed amendment will become part of the United States Constitution. And all that is needed is a simple majority vote in the state legislatures. So, if that happens in 38 state legislatures, that’s three-fourths of the state legislatures, the proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution.
The other option involves three-fourths of the states in a state convention. Again, 38 states in a state convention approved the proposed amendment, it becomes part of our supreme governing document, the United States Constitution. So, when you look at our history, 227 years, we’ve only had 27 amendments or changes to our United States Constitution. That’s really phenomenal. 26 of the 27 have taken the route of a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress, and then approval or ratification in 38 states, or three-fourths of the state legislatures. Only one amendment went to the ratification phase and achieved three-fourths of the states in a state convention, and that one amendment was the 21st Amendment, which repealed the prohibition amendment, Amendment #18.
In 227 years, we have never used the two-thirds vote of the state legislatures in a national convention to propose an amendment for the ratification phase. And the Constitution provides no option for the President to have a formal role in the Constitutional Amendment process.