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We are winding down in the Constitutional lessons.  Only a few more weeks before this crazy train ride, that started my blogging comes to an end.  I need some new ideas of what I could teach in my Saturday slot.  If their are any ideas please let me know.  I may continue on with the Bill of Rights, but I may not.  Either way this trip is coming to an end and I need a new one to start.

Today’s lesson focuses on the fifth article of the Constitution and as the title proclaims, it is all about Amending the Constitution.  So lets get started. 

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,

The Constitution provides two ways that an amendment may be proposed to it.  When I teach this material to my students I tell them to remember the magic number of two-thirds to remember the first step in the amendment process.  Both require two-thirds of something.  The first and most common way is for two-thirds, sometimes called a super majority, of both houses of Congress to pass the bill.  This is a high water mark to reach.  That requires 67 Senators and 291 Representatives to all agree to the same thing, which is just an unheard of event.  The founders though provided a secondary method just in case the Congress was unwilling or unable to propose amendments

The other method involves two-thirds of the states, specifically the legislatures, calling for a Constitutional convention, to propose amendments.  This method has never been used to amend the Constitution.  All twenty-seven amendments were proposed by Congress.  I think most people fear the repercussions of calling a constitutional convention.  The last time we did that the smartest people in the nation came together and created the document we are now studying.  Do you trust any of the people who are our “leaders” to possibly create a new constitution?  I don’t. 

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;

The Constitution again provides two ways to ratify a proposed amendment in the last step; both methods require action by the state.  The other magic number I ask my students to remember when learning the amending process for our constitution is three-fourths.  The first way is the easiest and most commonly used method.  Three-fourths of the state legislatures must approve of the proposed amendment.  This does not need to be by a super majority, so a simple majority in thirty-eight states must approve of the amendment.

The other method is a bit more convoluted and depends a lot on state law.  The states can call conventions to specifically ratify the proposed amendment.  This is similar to how the Constitution was ratified.  Once thirty-eight states ratify the amendment either by legislatures or conventions the amendment becomes part of the Constitution. 

A quick note on the conventions route on steps one and two.  During the proposing step, the convention being used is a national convention with the states being called, similar to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention.  The conventions called in the ratifying step are state wide conventions that only happen inside the individual states.

Also another fact most people forget.  Congress is responsible for choosing the method of ratification for all amendments.  The only amendment to be ratified by state conventions was the twenty-first amendment that repealed Prohibition.

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.

Here again we find the fictional pro-slavery slant of the Constitution.  I have dealt with this issue at length in a previous lesson.  So I won’t dwell on it more here.  This was only about protecting the state’s right to import slaves.  Once the time frame elapsed the first thing the Congress did was end the slave trade in the U.S.  This also protects the equal suffrage of the states in the U.S. Senate.  It is unlikely that any state will ever do this but it is a good protection to have inside the Constitution.

That does it for this lesson.  Next week’s lesson will focus on Article IV.  This is where we find the world famous and Anti-Federalist fearful Supremacy Clause.  Tuesday’s article will address some concerns a colleague of mine has with the idea of Original Intent as a method for interpreting the Constitution.  It will be a long one so make sure you get your rest.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Class dismissed!

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