Suggested 26 US Constitution Amendments (Part 1 of 8): Legislative Branch

This PurpleSlog series will suggest 26 amendments, (plus 2 “stretch” amendments). Additionally I will note 9 common amendment ideas that I think should be passed on.

This post: Suggested Legislative Amendments


My Concern/Caveat: The list of amendments comes from years of thinking and note taking. I have documented the source/inspiration of the idea when remember it or have it noted. Some of the ideas where mine and then combined with like proposals. I will add further documentation as I find or as it is brought to my attention.

Legislative Apportionment by Citizen Population Amendment

What

To clarify that apportionment of Representatives be set by counting only citizens and legal residents.

Why

Don’t allow legislators and bureaucrats to devise “corrective” counting measures that distort the true populations.

Term Limits for the House of Representatives Amendment

What

Lifetime House term limit restriction of six two-year terms. A member can serve up to ½ of an appointed or special election term with out it counting as one of his six lifetime terms.

Why

We know from Public Choice Theory that representatives respond to incentives and are therefore not driven to serve the public good, but instead to maximize there own benefits. Also, they tend to juice the system to favor incumbents. A term-limit adds a needed control to the system.

Term Limits for the Senate Amendment

What

Lifetime Senate term limit restriction of two six-year terms. A member can serve up to ½ of an appointed or special election term with out it counting as one of his two lifetime terms.

Why

We know from Public Choice Theory that representatives respond to incentives and are therefore not driven to serve the public good, but instead to maximize there own benefits. Also, they tend to juice the system to favor incumbents. A term-limit adds a needed control to the system.

States Optional Power for Congressional Recall Amendment

What

The individual states shall have the power, if they so wish to exercise it, to extend state election processes and rules to include recall of US Senate and House member.

Why

Congress has recently shown that they consider themselves somewhat above the law and claim extra-constitutional privileges for themselves. State Recall adds an additional control on negative congressional behavior.

Filling Vacancies in the House of Representatives Amendment

What

(Adapted From USS Clueless):

Give governors the power to appoint acting Representatives to fill vacant seats, or to replace members who are alive but incapacitated, until permanent Representatives could be selected through special election or the incapacitated member again becomes able to serve. This would be similar to the power granted regarding vacant Senate seats under the 17th Amendment, but critically different in that such appointments would be definitely temporary and an election to choose a permanent replacement would not be optional.

Why

(Adapted From USS Clueless):

Permanently replacing Senators is fine, but the House was constitutionally intended to be much more responsive to the citizens than the Senate and it’s essential that this philosophy be retained in any change we make. In case of catastrophic war or other massive catastrophe, this nation must have the ability to reconstitute its full government rapidly in case large parts of it have been killed. The President may die, and Senators can be killed, but the Presidency and the Senate will exist as long as this nation does. The House of Representatives must also live even if many individual Representatives die.

The U.S. Capital from the top of the Washington Monument

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13 Responses

  1. […] Suggested 26 US Constitution Amendments (Part 1 of 8): Legislative Branch […]

  2. interesting post. some preliminary thoughts…

    1) why is it a bad idea to have senators elected directly? i concede there is merit in the current scheme, but would you concede that states have lost almost all semblance of power? would you also concede that perhaps states playing a more important role in the federal government might actually inject a little of that “peculiar and local concern” mr. madison was always fretting about? indeed, wouldn’t some of your proposals, states recall option for example, be altogether anomalous if states were granted back their original powers?

    2) why is it a bad idea to avoid increasing the size of the house of reprsentatives? i won’t link to my work on this, but i have worked on this both publicly and privately. the size of the house right now is probably the single biggest factor impeding a broad, well established consensus opinion. do you suppose this is something we should query?

    3) do term limits

  3. Hi Federalist X,

    1) why is it a bad idea to have senators elected directly?

    I know that direct election by the citizenry is supposed to be a good thing. I don’t really have problems with the Electoral Vote system though.

    The question regarding direct election of senators vs. state legislature action first comes to me as: is the US Senate better now under the current system then it was before? To that, I am not sure. If the situation is better, it isn’t better by much. I am not sure if going back to the old system would get the US much.

    I would however favor an amendment giving states the option of popular vote or legislative action or some other republican (small “r”) method. Letting the states decide by experimentation works for me.

    …but would you concede that states have lost almost all semblance of power? would you also concede that perhaps states playing a more important role in the federal government might actually inject a little of that “peculiar and local concern” mr. madison was always fretting about?

    I am a strong supporter of Competitive Federalism and keeping government activity at the the lower levels when it makes good sense, which it often does. I am working on a federalism-driven network homeland security scheme which will be a future post or series someday).

    indeed, wouldn’t some of your proposals, states recall option for example, be altogether anomalous if states were granted back their original powers?

    Perhaps. I think the states having the option to implement recall would be a good control on abuse simply by existing, even if rarely or never used.

    3) do term limits

    Agreed.

    Please Post here or email me your links – I would like to read them.

  4. Re House size, any change doesn’t require a amendment.

    Arnold Kling had a post on this topic (Econlog or TCS Daily) in the last year, but I can’t find it.

    As long as more house members doens’t mean mean more proportionally more committees, sub-committees, and leadership positions.

    Thinking…

    If the house had more members (double? triple?) and the members individually each were on a smaller number of committee assignments, the house should be more efficient. Expertise and specializations would find a home. More deliberative work could take place. Concentration of effort by house members could occur. Empty meeting really run by staffers would decrease in frequency. This could be added to the general rules of operation to the house amendment.
    Hmm…I will need to think on this some more.

  5. I’d like to see the following Amendments to the Constitution. I don’t know which numbered amendment it would be as long as its in there:

    1. No law shall be passed that favors one State over another, one local government over another, one business over another, or one person over another.

    Rationale: It has too many pluses to be mentioned here. At a minimum it would bring earmarks, and strange social experiments to a screeching halt. It would also force lobbyists to find other employment. And it would initiate a flat tax. LOTS OF BENEFITS!

    2. Any law that proposes to raise revenues for the Federal Government in the form of levies, withholding, or taxes, requires a two thirds majority vote of the House and Senate, and shall sunset after 5 years.

    Rationale: Self explanatory

    3. The maximum tax that any individual or family is required to pay to local, State, or Federal taxing authorities is 21% percent, apportioned one third to all local taxing agencies, one third to the State, and one third to the federal Government, except in time of a declared war. If war is declared by Congress, the Federal Government is authorized to levy up to an additional 10% percent war tax on its citizens for a period of five years or until the war is ended.
    ***
    I have couple more I am mulling, but haven’t thought through yet

  6. Update#1 – modifications to first post: “I’d like to see the following Amendments to the Constitution. I don’t know which numbered amendment they would be as long as they in there:”

    1. Equality of Legislative Effect: “No law shall be passed by Congress, the States, or local governments that favors one State over another, one local government over another, one business over another, or one person over another.”

    Rationale:
    a. It makes sense, is broad, and ennobles the Constitution by carrying through with the premise “that all men are created equal”
    b. Congress would be forced to propose and enact laws that are for the common Weal, not just for special interests.
    c. Representatives and Senators would no longer be able to enact earmark legislation for their districts. To paraphrase Tip O’neill’s comments that all politics is local: “All politics is local, it’s just that you won’t be able to bring in any Federal money into the district/State to woo voters”.
    Side note: “What would our elected officials run on? 🙂
    c. The lobbying industry would be reduced dramatically.
    d. Social experiments, educational experiments, affirmative action and a host of other Federal initiatives and programs would be made illegal (or at least subject to a positive court challenge)

    Tax Laws:

    2. Sunset Law on taxes: “Any law that raises revenues for the Federal Government in the form of levies, withholding, customs duties or taxes, requires a two thirds majority vote of the House and Senate, and shall sunset after 5 years. Furthermore, citizens shall be taxed only once on their income or earnings.”

    Rationale: Self explanatory. The last sentence eliminates double taxation.

    3. Maximum taxing Authority: “The maximum obligation in the form of taxes, wage witholding, or any other levy that any individual or family is required to pay to local, State, or Federal taxing authorities shall be 21% percent, apportioned one third to all local taxing agencies, one third to the State, and one third to the Federal Government, except in time of a declared war.
    War Tax Exception: If war is declared by Congress, the President is authorized to levy up to an additional 10% percent war tax on all citizens for a period of five years or until the war is declared over. In either case, after five years from initial authorization, the War tax shall sunset and no further funds may be collected without a two thirds majority “Aye” vote by both Houses of Congress. Beginning on the first renewal period of the War tax, the War tax legislation shall sunset after one year and shall require annual two thirds approvals by both houses of Congress. After seven years of a declared war, no further taxes shall be collected under the War tax provision for a period of five years.”

    Rational:
    a. It would provide Congress with the true “Power of the Purse strings” to offset Presidential power in time of war.
    b.With #1, above, this amendment would gradually wean State governments from being beholden to Washington for handouts, and thus recover many of the States rights that have been eroded by the “Power of the Purse Strings” in Washington.
    c. It would place more decision-making (and money)at the local level.

    4. “All obligations of all taxing authorities must be accounted for at the end of each fiscal year; no obligations of any taxing authority shall be placed into a special account or “off the books”.”

    Rationale: All obligations must be accounted for.

    5. Deficits: The Federal deficit in any fiscal year shall not exceed three times the prior fiscal year’s total receipts except in time of war. Furthermore except in time of war, at least ten percent of any fiscal year’s receipts must be paid into the Federal Deficit Accounts on a quarterly basis of at least two and a half percent.

    Rationale: A way to keep the Federal Government from overspending.

    ***
    I have couple more I am mulling, but haven’t thought through yet

  7. Hi Phil,

    1. Equality of Legislative Effect: “No law shall be passed by Congress, the States, or local governments that favors one State over another, one local government over another, one business over another, or one person over another.”

    I think there are to many litigation possibilities here. I too want to keep out pork spending. I think this amendment as worded would require equal per capital federal spending per state. That is not the outcome I am looking for. How would situations like having some states (those with major military bases) work out?

    I think the same effects you want can be achieved with these amendments (but without the negative effects):

    Term limits for the House and Senate

    Spending Separation and Reduction Veto

    Spending Control Amendment (requiring a 3/5 agreement to increase spending above 90% of the prev level)

    Basic Rules for the Operation of Congress Amendment (requiring a 2 year budget and sunset clauses)

    Spending and Taxing Consideration Amendment (will will end middle of the night votes on spending bills nobody has read)

  8. Phil,

    2. Sunset Law on taxes: “Any law that raises revenues for the Federal Government in the form of levies, withholding, customs duties or taxes, requires a two thirds majority vote of the House and Senate, and shall sunset after 5 years. Furthermore, citizens shall be taxed only once on their income or earnings.”

    I favor radical tax reform (prev post 1, prev post 2). I want to reduce the opportunities for abuse of the tax system for special interests and reduce the major inefficiency (transaction costs) to the US in the form of $265 billion in tax compliance costs. Maybe adding a control through an amendment process is the only way.

  9. 4. “All obligations of all taxing authorities must be accounted for at the end of each fiscal year; no obligations of any taxing authority shall be placed into a special account or “off the books”.”

    I am opposed to off-the-books accounting too.

  10. Phil,


    3. Maximum taxing Authority: “The maximum obligation in the form of taxes, wage witholding, or any other levy that any individual or family is required to pay to local, State, or Federal taxing authorities shall be 21% percent, apportioned one third to all local taxing agencies, one third to the State, and one third to the Federal Government, except in time of a declared war.

    I am there with you on trying to control out-of-control spending.

    I would rather not impose hard percents. I would rather change the system or process to curb the source (public choice theory effects) of most of the waste and negative actions. It still preserves the freedom of action of the government to respond to unexpected events. I think changing the process will be sufficient.

  11. On the Legislative Apportionment by Citizen Population Amendment: I would have put it more bluntly. If a person is going to give your state power in the House, they need to have power over the state; anything else is dirty pool, at best. See: slavery, Jim Crow laws.

    Term limits: Any given legislative seat imposes different unofficial requirements, in time and money, on its holders. Each legislative district, furthermore, has different numbers of people who match those requirements as well as the formal requirements for the seat; these numbers change with the districts population and economic levels. Instead of set term limits for all Congressmen, I would require each state and Congressional district to hold a special election every ten years, after Census taking and reapportionment, to decide whether its Congressmen will be subject to term limits for the coming decade.

    Another idea: Term Limits for Elected Congressional Officers Act. All elected leaders of Congress (Speaker, Majority/Minority Leaders, etc) forbidden multiple consecutive terms. Why? In addition to arguments on other term limits, the expectation of dominance by certain individuals adds unnecessary complication to the process of electing individual Senators and Representatives.

  12. Michael,

    Re Your term limit idea. I don’t like it all. Not one bit. It is to open to manipulation. Either have TL or not, don’t just have them some of the time.

    >Another idea: Term Limits for Elected Congressional Officers Act

    This is an interesting idea. I think the leaders would just the positions among themselves (putin-style) to get around the spirit of the law.

    –Purpleslog

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