The 27th Amendment

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The 27th Amendment, which prohibits a change in salary for Congress unless an election has taken place, was adopted more than 200 years after it was approved by Congress.

The Text of the 27th Amendment is this:

"No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

This Amendment goes by various names, including the "Congressional Pay Amendment" and the "Madison Amendment." It is this latter name that gives the clue to its origin, for the Madison mentioned is none other than James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers. This Amendment was one of 17 that Madison proposed to Congress straight after the adoption of the Constitution. Congress whittled it to 12, and the 10 that became law were the Bill of Rights.

Despite Madison's efforts and despite the approval of the Bill of Rights, the compensation amendment was ratified by only six states, out of a required 10. As the country grew, so did the number of states but so did the threshold. By 1873, only eight states had ratified.

Unlike some amendments, the "Madison Amendment" did not have a deadline, so it remained ratified by a growing yet insufficient number of states until the latter part of the 20th Century. Thanks in part to a renewed interest spurred by a college student, more states ratified, starting again in 1983, with Michigan on May 7, 1992, providing the necessary 38th approval.

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David White