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The Framers of the Constitution of the United States anticipated the requirement to amend their underlying document during the course of the nation’s history, and dedicated Article V of the Constitution to address that inevitability. The text of that provision of the Constitution, Article V, that addresses the question of amendments is provided below:
“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.”
To date, the constitution has been amended 27 times, all by the same process as set forth in Article V. That process has involved, per the wording of the Constitution, the introduction of a proposed amendment in both houses of Congress, with eventual ratification of the proposed amendment requiring a two-thirds vote in both chambers, followed by concurrence by three-fourths of the states (38 out of 50). This is, as noted, the sole process through which the Constitution has been amended to date.
The second constitutionally-sanctioned process for amending the constitution requires two-thirds of the 50 states to agree to call for establishment of a Constitutional Convention, during which proposed amendments could be offered, debated and voted on. As with the other amending process, three-fourths of the states must agree to the amendment in order for it to be ratified. This process has yet to be tested.
While the Framers anticipated movements to amend the original text of the Constitution, they did not want the process for amending that document to be easy. On the contrary, they made the processes as deliberative and protracted as they could so that any amendments would be more likely to be meritorious. The 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages (i.e., Prohibition) was the only effort at amending the Constitution that would be repealed by a subsequent amendment, the 21st Amendment.
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