Revision of the Constitution

April 21, 1937

Report Outline
Pending Proposals to Amend Constitution
Framers' Views on Mode of Amendment
Operation of the Amending Process
Proposals for Revision of Article V
Special Focus

Pending Proposals to Amend Constitution

Outlook for Compromise on President's Court Plan

Validation of the Wagner Labor Relations Act by a five-to-four decision of the Supreme Court on April 12 has set the stage for a compromise on President Roosevelt's plan for reorganization of the federal judiciary. Neither the President nor any leader of the administration forces in Congress has expressed a willingness to forsake the original plan, but the strength of the opposition in the Senate, if not sufficient altogether to defeat the proposal, may force adoption of a compromise combining legislation to increase the size of the Supreme Court by two or three justices with a constitutional amendment either (1) to fix the size of the Court, (2) to compel retirement of older justices, (3) to empower Congress to reenact invalidated legislation by an extraordinary majority, or (4) to require an extraordinary majority of the Court to invalidate acts of Congress. Proposed amendments to effect all of these purposes have been offered in Congress–most of them by opponents of the President's plan.

Should the President fail to obtain enactment of his Supreme Court plan, or a satisfactory compromise, he might seek one or more constitutional amendments to enlarge federal regulatory power over industry and agriculture. This course has been strongly urged in recent weeks by Senator Wheeler (D., Mont.) and others who oppose the court reorganization plan but who favor reextension of federal regulatory power over fields in which the exercise of such power has been prohibited by the Supreme Court. Several proposed amendments to expand federal authority over industry and agriculture and the powers of the central government to promote the general welfare have been offered in Congress. Although unwilling to withdraw his own proposal, the President is believed to have no objection to coupling with it a “clarifying amendment” such as was called for in the 1936 platform of the Democratic party–if pending problems could not be “effectively solved by legislation within the Constitution.”

Amendments to Liberalize the Process of Amendment

President Roosevelt's conviction that the amendment method is too slow to permit the enactment of legislation he believes to be necessary “now,” and the likelihood that Congress at the present session will submit to the states an amendment, dealing either with the Supreme Court or with federal power over industry and agriculture, has directed public attention to the process by which the Constitution may be revised. Five proposed amendments; to liberalize the amending process have been offered in Congress at the present session. Current criticism of existing methods of changing the Constitution enhances the liklihood of early consideration of these proposals by Congress.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Constitution and Separation of Powers
Sep. 07, 2012  Re-examining the Constitution
Jan. 29, 1988  Treaty Ratification
Mar. 27, 1987  Bicentennial of the Constitution
Jan. 31, 1986  Constitution Debate Renewed
Mar. 16, 1979  Calls for Constitutional Conventions
Jul. 04, 1976  Appraising the American Revolution
Sep. 12, 1973  Separation of Powers
Jul. 12, 1972  Treaty Ratification
Apr. 19, 1967  Foreign Policy Making and the Congress
Mar. 05, 1947  Contempt of Congress
May 10, 1945  The Tariff Power
Jul. 01, 1943  Executive Agreements
Jun. 01, 1943  Advice and Consent of the Senate
May 24, 1943  Modernization of Congress
Jan. 18, 1943  The Treaty Power
Aug. 24, 1942  Congress and the Conduct of War
May 09, 1940  Congressional Powers of Inquiry
Nov. 09, 1939  Participation by Congress in Control of Foreign Policy
Apr. 21, 1937  Revision of the Constitution
Feb. 24, 1936  Advance Opinions on Constitutional Questions
Oct. 04, 1935  Federal Powers Under the Commerce Clause
Jun. 19, 1935  The President, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court
Sep. 10, 1928  The Senate and the Multilateral Treaty
Dec. 16, 1926  The Senate's Power of Investigation
Oct. 03, 1924  Pending Proposals to Amend the Constitution
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U.S. Constitution