James Madison was U.S. president from March 1809 until early 1817. But in 1789—twenty years before he became president—he proposed an amendment to a republic that was barely 13 years old.
He never saw his proposal pass. In fact, it was 203 years before it was ratified by the 38th state of a larger 50-state union. That was 1992. The proposal might have languished in obscurity for even more centuries, had a college student not realized that it could still be ratified. In 1982, he started a grass roots movement and the consti-tution was amended 10 years later. Today, twenty-one years after it became a law, it is still the most recent amendment to the constitution. So, what does it say?
It says “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” In other words, a sitting Congress can’t change its pay while it is in session. It can only change the salary of the next Congress or Senate.
Now, here’s the unintended consequence: Last week, GOP leaders crafted a new law that links congressional pay to the budget debate. If Congress can-not agree on a 2014 budget by April 15 (in the next 3 months), then their pay shall be withheld.
Sounds reasonable, right? Well not really, because it also says that in exchange, congress shall suspend the debt ceiling. Here at AWildDuck, we believe that this is would be terribly irresponsible. Seriously, guys & gals: The buck has to stop somewhere…We can’t kick this can forever!
But, speak of kicking the can, here is the real kicker: The new law is probably illegal, because of the 27th amendment. Remember that one? Congress cannot change its pay. That includes, it would seem, deferral, escrow, withholding, what have you!
I wonder if James Madison had just a glimmer of his influence on lawmakers 224 years hence. D’ya think? Nah! But it sure would be fun to go back and show him.
Read more about it at our source, the National Constitution Center.