The 27th Amendment: Summary, History & Ratification

Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk

Jason has a masters of education in educational psychology and a BA in history and a BA in philosophy. He's taught high school and middle school

The following lesson concerns the lengthy journey the 27th Amendment took prior to its inclusion in the United States Constitution. This amendment concerns granting pay raises to members of Congress. A short quiz following the lesson will allow you to test your understanding of this topic.


Imagine if you had a job and were able to give yourself a raise anytime you wanted without having to ask your boss. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, up until 1992 that is exactly what members of Congress could do. They could literally decide when they wanted to get paid more money. Fortunately, the passage of the 27th Amendment in 1992 put an end to that practice. While the 27th Amendment isn't nearly as well known or referenced as some other amendments, it does have quite a fascinating history.

Summary of the 27th Amendment

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

To prevent members of Congress from arbitrarily giving themselves pay raises, the Constitution was amended with the 27th Amendment, which stated that, 'No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.' Basically, what this said is that the pay raises legislators voted to approve would only go into effect during the following congressional session. The logic employed here was that legislators would be more cautious about increasing their pay if they had less of a personal stake in the vote. By approving a raise for themselves, legislators might risk not being reelected, and therefore would not benefit from the pay raise. More importantly, giving yourself a raise isn't always the most politically savvy move. A legislator's constituents might become angry over the pay raise and vote for a different candidate in the next election.

History of the 27th Amendment

Americans had long worried about their lawmakers acting in their own self interest. In response to this concern, James Madison proposed the 27th Amendment in 1789.

Jame Madison
James Madison

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