This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
We’re slowly working our way through the Constitution and its amendments. Today, we’ll consider the Twentieth Amendment.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
This section changed the date a President-elect became President. Previously, that took place in March, but under this provision the date was moved up to January 20 following the election. The reasoning behind this change was that four months was too long a time of limbo between the election and the inauguration.
SECTION 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
The only provision for meetings in the original Constitution was that Congress should meet at least once a year on the first Monday in December unless Congress itself should provide otherwise by law. This section changed that and mandated that the Congress begin its annual sessions on January 3rd.
The effect of this change has been to keep these politicians at work year-round coming up with schemes to pass more and more federal programs. In the first century-plus of our history, the government stayed pretty much out of the way of the people, with the exception of when northern politicians decided to shove their will down the throats of the South. Since the ratification of this amendment, our history has been a steady march of bigger and bigger government taking over one thing after another that had previously been the right and responsibility of individuals.
SECTION 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
SECTION 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
SECTION 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
SECTION 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
The last four sections of this amendment were merely a matter of housekeeping.
How do you feel about the wisdom of keeping a bunch of politicians in session year-round dreaming up new ways to extend the power of the federal government?
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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