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    • In the original Jumanji movie, the first two players were trapped inside the game for years until two later players began playing.

      For the purpose of this conversation, I am not interested in particular policy issues, just in the constitutional structure.

      First, should proposed Amendments to the US constitution have time limits for ratification or should they stay in play for decades until ratified?

      Second, should time limits first implemented be able years later to be removed without the consent of the states.

      Third, if Time limits can be removed then can a state remove its ratification.

      When the US was first created, Amendments were proposed without time limits.

      Later, the laws proposing Amendments were enacted with time limits built in to the enactment bill.

      This practice was challenged in Court and SCOTUS upheld Congress's right to set time limits in 1939.

      In 1992, an amendment first proposed by Congress in 1789 met the ratification requirements. It was the first time that an amendment which was ratified was ratified in more than four years. All other ratified amendments except one had been ratified in under three years. The sixteenth amendment was the only ratified Amendment prior to 1992 that had taken more than three years and it was ratified in under four years.

      There is a movement underway to remove the time limit from an amendment which failed to pass within the time specified within its enactment law. Until recently, the reintroduction of a previously failed amendment was assumed to have required each state to vote again on the subject of ratification. But those who are seeking to revive an expired Amendment want to start with the states which ratified it bound to their previous legislatures's votes.

      But if they can revive what initially expired then should not their opponents have the right to do the opposite and rescind prior votes?

      It doesn't really matter in the long run which amendment this is because if this is allowed for this expired Amendment then it applies to ALL expired amendments both now and in the future.

      I am less concerned with policy than I am with structure. If we break down all structure in pursuit of policy pretty soon we will no longer have a constitution.

      Similarly, there are some who are seeking to abolish the need for amendments by arguing that five justices can change the constitution without the states or the people having any say in the matter. This oligarchial approach to the Constitution is called "the living constitution" theory.

      Whatever one party can do, the other can also. Setting this kind of precedent which can be used in an opposite manner is suicidal. We are now at a point in which there are more justices which tend to issue decisions which are seen as "conservative". If the living constitution theory is correct then the "conservative majority" can change the constitution, but if it is false then all of those who advocated this theory when there was a liberal majority were harming the American republic. They set the precedent. I viewed the living Constition theory as false and harmful in 2016 and I still view it as false today.

    • Government structure should be designed so that significant changes in policy do not happen quickly. The idea that the Senate is the saucer that cools down heated decisions made by the lower house is a frustrating concept in practice sometimes, but it avoids hasty policy changes that future generations have to contend with. At the same time, I do think that allowing over two hundred years to obtain sufficient states to ratify a constitutional amendment is not representative government, even if it does reflect the views of the current generation.

      The one thought I have with the argument you’ve made is that government is an ever evolving network of individual pieces. People often create workarounds when the system isn’t operating efficiently or the way it was intended, and if you fix the system without removing those workarounds, the system will still be broken.

      How do you decide how long should be allowed for state legislatures to ratify an amendment? Four years or less may have been the precedent until 1992, but is that for the best? Should it be open for a generation? Or until the children born when the amendment began ratification are old enough to vote for new state legislators?

      Fascinating ideas on the governing process that you’ve caused me to ponder.

      Thank you!


    • This is the only example in all of USA history of an Amendment taking longer than four years. It is viewed by scholars as more of an anomaly than a precedent. In fact, SCOTUS in 1939 had indicated that an amendment could not linger around unratified for centuries. The fact is that if this amendment had been proposed any time in the recent past, the current consistent practice has been to attach a seven year time limit to the law proposing the Amendment. This was not the practice in 1789 at the time of the first congress.

      This amendment was proposed at the same time as the first ten ratified amendments. There were a total of twelve amendments proposed. Ten of these were ratified and were later called "The Bill of Rights. This would have been one of "The Bill of Rights" if it had been ratified at that time.

      After 1792, only two newer states had ratified it until 1983. The story of why and how it was ratified is in my opinion, very amusing.

      Here is a link to a PDF which discusses the history of this amendment and why there was opposition to it in the 1700s. If you want to skip all the back history and get to the events that started in 1983, skip down to the page numbered 536 (this PDF is an excerpt from a larger publication) and look for the section with the heading "IV. Resurrection".

      Below is an article from the New York Times in 1992. As you will see if you read the article, there was at first questions as to whether this ratification was legitimate because of a 1939 SCOTUS decision.

      After this article was written seven more states ratified it, including two which had previously rejected ratifying back in the 1700s.

    • He concluded that the 1789 amendment was still validly before the states principally because, unlike most recent proposed amendments, it has no internal time limit. Intrigued, he wrote a paper reporting and analyzing his discovery and urg- ing that the amendment be adopted. But Watson received only a "C" from his instructor, who told him that the amendment was a dead letter and never would become part of the Constitution.

      Despite the cold reception his paper received, Watson began and pursued a solitary, self-financed quest to revive the compensation amendment, encouraging state legislators throughout the United States to work for its ratification.

      I’ll finish up reading this and the other readings tonight and then respond.

      Brilliant shares!

    • Up way past my bedtime, however, that pdf of Watson’s quixotic quest for ratification was as good as any novel.

      I was completely unaware of the 27th amendment or that it was ratified in 1992 or that two states changed their vote from the 1700s. The fact that the amendment concerned delaying pay raises for Congress was an incentive for state legislators to pander to their constituents by passing it. And I think that’s an inherent danger in providing an overly long time frame for ratification. Thank you for expanding my perspective on this.

      I don’t know how well you remember the bicentennial of the US Constitution but I remember that some reckless congressmen at the time were clamoring for a Constitutional Convention as part of the celebrations.

      Scary to think if it had happened.

    • I am far from a constitutional expert or even a novice at best but I do have a problem with putting too much power into the hands of the courts whether balance goes to the left or right. The power of referendum taking issues directly to the people through amendments is a necessary component in my view to keep the democratic in the republic.

      As far as time limits I have never even thought of this so this is a teachable moment for me. But I don't see how you would want to keep a ratification window open indefinitely. People have a chance to vote and at some point the window needs to close or really want is the point.

      Another point on limits is term limits. I believe we should have 2 - 4 year terms for senate and the house. If it is good enough for the president it should be good enough for congress. I know all the arguments but 8 years will give them plenty of time to figure out the job. We would obviously need an amendment for this but I just don't see the necessity for a career politician in the same role. I know the founding fathers had their reasons but if they could have had the luxury of a looking glass into contemporary society they may have had a change of heart.

      And while we are at it let's throw in another amendment for campaign finance reform taking money out of election cycles completely. Create media slots and media services for TV, Radio, Newspaper, Web ads, and Social to allow candidates to run their messaging. (Same slots and level of services for all candidates) The government could provide tax breaks for the services or even subsidies.. Candidates would then use these services and slots to explain their platform. Everything else is door to door or through volunteer activities. I know this is wishful thinking but money should be taken out of the electioneering process, period. Candidates utilizing the fixed resources most effectively with the best messaging wins the better exposure. It will still be flawed but I believe it would have to be better than the mess we currently have.