Grateful American Kids
Constitutional Calendar

May 7: The 27th Amendment

The 27th Amendment does not boast the greatest efficiency in terms of ratification—it was proposed in 1789 and approved 200 years later in 1992. This Amendment said that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.” The issue of congressional pay began during the founding of the nation; Madison did not want to grant congressmen unconditional control over their own pay and he did not want to give the President too much power over Congress by allowing him or her to set congressional salaries. The distance between congressmen’s decision on their salary and the law’s implementation after an election, so that congressmen must consider reelection when determining pay, provided suitable balance. The 27th Amendment is certainly the only Amendment whose ratification was largely initiated by a C-grade college term paper (in 1982, on this still-pending Amendment) and its disappointed writer. University of Texas student Gregory Watson, unable to persuade his professor of his paper’s excellence, set out to persuade policymakers to ratify the 27th Amendment. A decade later, his mission proved successful.

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