The Twentieth Amendment
) to the United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...
establishes the beginning and ending of the terms of the elected federal offices. It also deals with scenarios in which there is no President-elect
President-elect of the United States is the title used for an incoming President of the United States in the period between the general election on Election Day in November and noon eastern standard time on Inauguration Day, January 20, during which he is not in office yet...
. The Twentieth Amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933.
Section 1 of the amendment reduced the amount of time between Election Day and the beginning of Presidential, Vice Presidential and Congressional terms. Originally, the terms of the President, the Vice President and the incoming Congress began on March 4, four months after the elections were held. While this lapse was a practical necessity at the end of the 18th century, when any newly-elected official might require several months to put his affairs in order and then undertake an arduous journey from his home to the national capital, it eventually had the effect of impeding the functioning of government in the modern age.
From the early 19th century onward, it also meant that the lame duck
A lame duck is an elected official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure, and especially an official whose successor has already been elected.-Description:The status can be due to*having lost a re-election bid...
Congress and/or Presidential administration could, as in the case of the Congress, convene or fail to convene; in the case of the administration, to act or to fail to act, or to meet significant national crises in a timely manner. Each institution could do this on the theory that at best, a lame duck Congress or administration had neither the time nor the mandate to tackle problems. Where as the incoming administration or Congress would have both the time, and a fresh electoral mandate, to examine and address the problems that the nation faced. These problems very likely would have been at the center of the debate of the just completed election cycle.
This dilemma was seen most notably in 1861 and 1933, as Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...
and Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...
(plus the newly elected Senators and Representatives) had to wait four months before they, and the incoming-Congresses, could deal with the secession of Southern states
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...
and the Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...
Originally, under Article I, Section 4, Clause 2, the Congress was required to convene at least once each year on the first Monday in December. That requirement created a mandatory lame duck session following each federal election. Section 2 of the amendment changed this required convening to January 3.
The amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933. Pursuant to Section 5 of the amendment, the changes embodied in Sections 1 and 2 took effect on October 15, 1933. This delay resulted in the first meeting of the 73rd Congress
The Seventy-third United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1933 to January 3, 1935, during the first two years...
, along with the inauguration of President Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner, IV , was the 32nd Vice President of the United States and the 44th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives .- Early life and family :...
, taking place on March 4, 1933.
On February 15, 1933, 23 days after this amendment was ratified, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt was the target of an unsuccessful assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...
attempt by Giuseppe Zangara
Giuseppe Zangara was the assassin of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, though United States President–elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have been his intended target. Roosevelt escaped injury, but five people were shot including Cermak.- Early life :Zangara was born in Ferruzzano, Calabria, Italy...
. If the attempt had been successful then, pursuant to Section 3 of the amendment, John Nance Garner would have become President on March 4, 1933.
The first Congressional terms to begin under Section 1 were those of the 74th Congress
-House:Also 2 Delegates, 3 Resident Commissioners-Senate:*President of the Senate: John N. Garner *President pro tempore: Key Pittman -Majority leadership:*Majority leader: Joseph T. Robinson...
, on January 3, 1935. The first Presidential and Vice Presidential terms to begin under Section 1 were those of President Roosevelt and Vice President Garner, on January 20, 1937.
Because of this amendment, if the Electoral College fails to resolve who will be the President or Vice President, the incoming Congress, as opposed to the outgoing one, would choose who would occupy the unresolved office or offices.
Proposal and ratification
The Congress proposed the Twentieth Amendment on March 2, 1932 and the following states ratified it:
- Virginia (March 4, 1932)
- New York (March 11, 1932)
- Mississippi (March 16, 1932)
- Arkansas (March 17, 1932)
- Kentucky (March 17, 1932)
- New Jersey (March 21, 1932)
- South Carolina (March 25, 1932)
- Michigan (March 31, 1932)
- Maine (April 1, 1932)
- Rhode Island (April 14, 1932)
- Illinois (April 21, 1932)
- Louisiana (June 22, 1932)
- West Virginia (July 30, 1932)
- Pennsylvania (August 11, 1932)
- Indiana (August 15, 1932)
- Texas (September 7, 1932)
- Alabama (September 13, 1932)
- California (January 4, 1933)
- North Carolina (January 5, 1933)
- North Dakota (January 9, 1933)
- Minnesota (January 12, 1933)
- Arizona (January 13, 1933)
- Montana (January 13, 1933)
- Nebraska (January 13, 1933)
- Oklahoma (January 13, 1933)
- Kansas (January 16, 1933)
- Oregon (January 16, 1933)
- Delaware (January 19, 1933)
- Washington (January 19, 1933)
- Wyoming (January 19, 1933)
- Iowa (January 20, 1933)
- South Dakota (January 20, 1933)
- Tennessee (January 20, 1933)
- Idaho (January 21, 1933)
- New Mexico (January 21, 1933)
- Missouri (January 23, 1933)
Missouri was the 36th state to ratify, satisfing the requirement that three-fourths of the then 48 states approve the amendment. The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states:
- Georgia (January 23, 1933)
- Ohio (January 23, 1933)
- Utah (January 23, 1933)
- Massachusetts (January 24, 1933)
- Wisconsin (January 24, 1933)
- Colorado (January 24, 1933)
- Nevada (January 26, 1933)
- Connecticut (January 27, 1933)
- New Hampshire (January 31, 1933)
- Vermont (February 2, 1933)
- Maryland (March 24, 1933)
- Florida (April 26, 1933)