Thomas Jefferson Knowledge Institute

The Amendment Process

Supreme Court Article 5: 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; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. .

The United States Constitution is difficult to amend. An amendment can be blocked by only thirteen states refusing to ratify it. There are two processes for amending the Constitution. The first, which has been the only one used to date, is as follows:

  • Congress proposes amendments through affirmative votes of two-thirds of both the House and Senate.
  • The proposed amendments are sent to the states.
  • The legislatures of three-fourths of the states must vote to ratify the proposed amendments.

The second method completely bypasses Congress.

  • Two-thirds of the states petition Congress to form a convention in which the states propose amendments.
  • Congress must call a convention for that purpose.
  • The amendments proposed by the convention are sent to the states for ratification.
  • The legislatures of three-fourths of the states must vote to ratify the proposed amendments for them to become part of the Constitition.

The second method was recommended by George Mason at the Constitutional Convention. It was approved unanimously. The reason for the second method was to enable the states, who created the Constitution in the first place, to have a mechanism to amend it in case the federal government should ever become so antagonistic to the states or the people that it would be necessary to bypass Congress to correct injustices.

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