What 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.
|Maryland||December 19, 1789|
|North Carolina||December 22, 1789|
|South Carolina||January 19, 1790|
|Delaware||January 28, 1790|
|Vermont||November 3, 1791|
|Virginia||December 15, 1791|
|Ohio||May 6, 1873|
|Wyoming||March 6, 1978|
|Maine||April 27, 1983|
|Colorado||April 22, 1984|
|South Dakota||February 21, 1985|
|New Hampshire||March 7, 1985|
|Arizona||April 3, 1985|
|Oklahoma||July 10, 1985|
|New Mexico||February 14, 1986|
|Indiana||February 24, 1986|
|Utah||February 25, 1986|
|Arkansas||March 13, 1987|
|Montana||March 17, 1987|
|Connecticut||May 13, 1987|
|Wisconsin||July 15, 1987|
|Georgia||February 2, 1988|
|West Virginia||March 10, 1988|
|Louisiana||July 7, 1988|
|Iowa||February 9, 1989|
|Idaho||March 23, 1989|
|Nevada||April 26, 1989|
|Alaska||May 6, 1989|
|Oregon||May 19, 1989|
|Minnesota||May 22, 1989|
|Texas||May 25, 1989|
|Kansas||April 5, 1989|
|Florida||May 31, 1990|
|North Dakota||March 25, 1991|
|Alabama||May 5, 1992|
|Michigan||May 7, 1992|
|New Jersey||May 7, 1992|
|Illinois||May 12, 1992|
|Ratification was completed on May 7, 1992, when the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth states approved the amendment, providing the three-quarters of the states necessary to add the amendment to the Constitution. The archivist of the United States declared the amendment valid on May 18, 1992.|
What It Means
The Twenty-seventh Amendment prevents any congressional pay raise from going into effect until after the voters have been able to cast ballots in the next election, registering their approval or disapproval. With the voters in mind, legislators were likely to be more cautious about increasing their own salaries. James Madison introduced the Amendment in 1789 and it was sent to the states with the Bill of Rights. An insufficient number of states ratified it and the amendment lay dormant until 1982, when public outrage over a large boost in congressional salaries encouraged the states to revive the amendment. Unlike modern amendments, the Twenty-seventh had no time limit for ratification, so that some state legislatures ratified it more than two hundred years apart. In 1992, the Michigan state legislature passed the amendment, and it was finally ratified.
|* After an unpopular increase known as the Salary Grab, Congress reduced its salary|
|** As an economic move during the Great Depression, government salaries were cut|
|*** The Senate chose not to raise its salary as high as the House, but allowed senators to accept honoraria for giving speeches away from the Senate|
|**** The Senate raised its salary to the House level, but banned honoraria for outside activities|
Twenty-Seventh Amendment TIMELINE
1789 – Congress sends the amendment to the states as part of the Bill of Rights
Congress sends the states twelve amendments to the Constitution, but only ten of the amendments—known as the Bill of Rights—are ratified. The two that are not adopted deal with congressional pay raises and the size of districts for the House of Representatives. The pay raise amendment is approved by only six of the eleven states needed for ratification, and rejected by five states.
1939 – Unless Congress sets a date for terminating ratification, amendments are valid
Under a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Coleman v. Miller, any proposed amendment for which Congress has not specified a ratification deadline remains in play. The Court says that states may continue to consider an amendment regardless of how long it has been since it was first proposed.
1978 – Wyoming revives the pay raise amendment
A century after the last state, Ohio, ratified the salary amendment, the Wyoming legislature adds its ratification. This act is part of a general dissatisfaction with the directions of the federal government on matters of taxing and spending expressed by western states in what became known as the Sagebrush Rebellion.
1982 – A student researches the issue
In 1982, while looking for a research paper topic, University of Texas graduate student Gregory Watson discovers that in addition to the ten amendments that became the Bill of Rights, there were two other amendments that the First Congress had proposed and submitted to the states for ratification. In a paper, he argues that those amendments, though not ratified at the time, are still viable because they do not contain a “sunset provision” limiting the time for ratification. His professor is not impressed with his argument and gives him a C on his paper. Convinced that the amendment is still pending, Watson then begins a campaign to lobby state legislatures to ratify the forgotten amendments. When Congress votes itself a large pay increase, the campaign gains momentum.
1992 – Michigan ratifies Twenty-Seventh Amendment
Between 1983 and 1992, thirty-three additional states ratify the pay raise amendment. On May 7, 1992, 203 years after its submission to the states, the Twenty-seventh Amendment is ratified with its passage by the Michigan State Legislature. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives adopt concurrent resolutions agreeing that the Twenty-seventh Amendment has been validly ratified, despite the unorthodox lapse between its submission and completion.
2001 – Members of Congress are not harmed by pay increases
Representative Bob Schaffer and three others challenge the cost-of-living increases in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, arguing that such automatic increases grant legislators raises before a new Congressional session begins. In Schaffer v. Clinton, the district court dismisses three of the plaintiffs (a state legislator, a taxpayer, and a voter), on the ground that they have no standing to bring the case. The court dismisses case finding that the cost-of-living raises accomplish the goal of the Twenty-seventh Amendment because they “eliminate the possibility that Congress will grant itself a new pay raise during its current session.” The court of appeals dismisses the appeal because Schaffer, by receiving the pay increase, has not suffered any real injury.