Constitutional Law – The Amendment Repeal Process

The Amendment Repeal Process

What is an amendment, exactly?
The Constitution is not perfect as it was originally approved way back in 1788. Our Founding Fathers were some very bright individuals with foresight quite literally unmatched. They knew that with time, our country’s needs would change and they provided for that flexibility in our Constitution via the “Amendment”. An amendment is defined as an improvement, correction, or revision to the original Constitution. There are currently twenty-seven (27) amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, and you can read them all here in this Law Blog including all of the Articles of the Constitution. The first ten (10) amendments, ratified in December 1791, make up the Bill of Rights. The remaining seventeen (17) amendments address a variety of topics, including voting rights, slavery, and the sale of alcohol.

The Amendment Process
In order to discuss the repeal process of an amendment, we must first understand the amendment process. Article V of the Constitution sets forth the process of amending the Constitution. Article V provides two such methods i) Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislature of the States, followed by ratification/affirmed by three-fourths of the states; or ii) two-thirds of both houses of the Congress have to approve of a proposed amendment and then it must be ratified/affirmed by three-fourths of the states.

To date, the first stated process of Constitutional Convention has only been used once. The rest of the Amendments have been ratified after two-thirds of the House and Senate approval and then approval by the states.

The Repeal Process
An amendment to the Constitution can be repealed, but only by the ratification of another amendment. Any of the twenty-seven (27) Constitutional amendments can be repealed. Because repealing an amendment requires the passage of another Constitutional amendment, repealing an amendment is extremely rare.

The 18th Amendment banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States, also known as Prohibition, is the only Constitutional amendment has been repealed in U.S. history. Congress ratified the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition in 1933.

In sum in order to REPEAL an amendment, we must first ratify a NEW amendment that repeals a prior amendment. This is primarily achieved via two-thirds of the US Senators (67 of 100 Senators), two-thirds of US Congressmen (290 of 435 Congressmen), and three-fourths of ALL of the states (38 of 50 state legislatures) and that’s why it has only happened once before.

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