Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States ConstitutionAmendment XXVII
(the Twenty-seventh Amendment
) of the United States Constitution
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Interpretation and history
This amendment provides that any change in the salary of members of Congress
shall take effect only after the next general election. It is intended as a restraint on the power of Congress to set its own salary - an obvious conflict of interest. Since its adoption however, it has not hindered Congress from imposing nearly annual pay raises, characterized as "cost of living adjustments" (COLA's) rather than as pay raises in the traditional sense of the term. The Federal courts have ruled in cases brought under the amendment that a COLA is not the same thing as a pay raise. Hence, members of Congress have been able to receive increases without triggering the restrictions imposed by the amendment.
This was one of the twelve originally proposed amendments in 1789, ten of which became the United States Bill of Rights, and the other Unratified Amendment Twelve.
In the period from 1789 to 1791, it was ratified by only six states out of eleven needed. In 1873, Ohio lawmakers saw fit to ratify it. Forgotten for decades, the proposed amendment lay comatose until the 1980s when an employee in the Texas Legislature rediscovered the proposal. The push for ratification began in earnest, and it officially joined the Constitution on May 7, 1992 when Michigan became the 38th state to ratify it.