Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.
The 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
The 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Amendments address four important administrative issues related to term dates, alcohol, presidential term limits, and the District of Columbia. Some of these issues you may have assumed were addressed in the original Constitution, since they've become common knowledge today.
The 20th Amendment
On the surface, the 20th Amendment may not seem significant, but it did have important repercussions. It included six sections, but the last two were simply instructions as to how it would be implemented once ratified. The first four sections are where the substantive changes can be found.
In the first section, the dates on which new terms begin for members of Congress, the vice president, and the president were set. The terms for new members of Congress were designated to start on January 3 and the vice president's and president's term was set to begin on January 20. Prior to the 20th Amendment, there wasn't a specific date for newly elected officials to take office.
The dates that were being used would often result in long lame duck periods - the time between the day of election and the day someone left office. The loser of an election had less incentive to work effectively during these transitional periods, which is why they needed to be minimized. The 20th Amendment accomplished that. It also clarified provisions related to the vice president's succession if the newly elected president died between the election and the inauguration.
The 21st Amendment
The 21st Amendment simply repealed the 18th Amendment. In 1920, the 18th Amendment was ratified, which made the production and distribution of alcohol illegal. The unanticipated consequences of gangsters like Al Capone stepping in to profit off the illegal trade of alcohol, and the violent crime that went along with it, soon convinced the public and Congress that regulated alcohol was better than unregulated alcohol. The 21st Amendment was ratified in 1933, ending the 13-year, non-alcoholic period in the U.S. known as prohibition.
The 22nd Amendment
Most Americans can probably answer the question: 'How many terms can a U.S. president stay in office?' The answer is two four-year terms. But why is that the limit? It's not actually something the founding fathers put in the Constitution. However, the early presidents who could have sought a third term (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) all held themselves to two terms. It wasn't until 1944, when Franklin D. Roosevelt won his fourth election, that it became evident the two-term idea should be put into law.
Roosevelt passed away shortly into his fourth term, but the idea that he could have served 16 years frightened many in Congress. In 1947, Congress drafted and the states ratified the 22nd Amendment, which placed a two-term limit on the U.S. presidency. If a vice president takes office because of the death of the president and serves as president for more than two years, that counts as one of their terms, so they can only be elected for one more term.
The 23rd Amendment
It was about 13 years later that the next amendment was drafted and ratified. This time the issue was Washington, D.C., which had always been considered a U.S. 'district' and not a part of any state. This meant that the residents of Washington, D.C., had no vote in federal elections, which became a serious concern as the city grew to a major metropolis.
The 23rd Amendment solved the problem by giving Washington, D.C., representation in the electoral college. The simplest solution was to give Washington, D.C., the same number of electors it would receive if it were a state, but the amendment limited that to no more than the least populous state. Since the time the amendment was ratified, that state has been Wyoming, with three electoral votes.
While the 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Amendments may not seem like significant legal changes, they certainly had important effects. The 20th Amendment may be the most difficult to identify direct effects from, but they are most certainly present. Lame duck periods can be very ineffective, and they still occur, but by codifying the dates Congress and the president take office, the 20th Amendment was a big step toward accountability for outgoing politicians. After this lesson, if you are ready for a glass of wine (assuming, of course you are of legal age), you can thank the 21st Amendment for repealing the 18th Amendment and ending prohibition.
Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton left office after eight years with relatively high approval numbers, suggesting that they may have been able to serve longer than eight years were it not for the 22nd Amendment. The 23rd Amendment finally addressed the 'no taxation without representation' argument that was made 250 years ago in the Declaration of Independence by giving citizens of Washington, D.C., votes in the presidential elections, although the larger issue of D.C.'s status remains unresolved.
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