Poor old Constitution! Look at what congressional doctors are proposing. As of March 15, no fewer than 88 resolutions of constitutional amendment had been introduced, and two of them actually have been approved by a subcommittee in the Senate.
By my tally, 24 resolutions would mandate a balanced federal budget. Seven would give a president the power of a line-item veto; seven others would punish desecration of the flag; six would deal with abortion; and five would authorize prayer in schools and other public buildings.That is only the beginning. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., have resurrected the old proposal to say that equal rights under the law - whatever that means - shall not be denied on account of sex. That particular turkey flopped around for 10 years before it collapsed in 1982.
Rep. Charles E. Bennett, D-Fla., and Rep. Alan Wheat, D-Mo., would perform major surgery on Article II. They would abolish the whole system of presidential election through state electors. They would provide for direct election by the people.
Several resolutions deal with the sensitive matter of congressional salaries. Rep. Robert Lagomarsino, R-Calif., would delay any increase in the members' pay until after an intervening election to the House.
This is not exactly an innovation. The same amendment was approved by Congress in 1789. It failed to win ratification at the time, but the proposal is still actively pending. Thirty-two states reportedly have ratified, leaving only four to go.
Rep. Andrew Jacobs, D-Ind., has introduced a cryptic resolution. Its purpose is "to repeal Clause 11, of Section 8, of Article I of the Constitution." That is all it says. Clause 11 is the clause that permits Congress to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.
And thinking of repeal resolutions: Republican Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan wants to get rid of the 22nd Amendment altogether. This is the amendment that limits a president to two terms.
On the matter of term limitation: Half a dozen resolutions are in the hopper. One would limit a president to six years with no chance to seek a second term. Another would limit members of the House to three terms of four years.
Rep. Phil Crane, R-Ill., would amend the Constitution to say that no person could be elected to the Senate more than once. The Crane amendment's chances in the Senate are not regarded as especially hot.
Rep. Jack Fields, R-Texas, would require that federal judges be reconfirmed by the Senate every 10 years. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would cut through the red tape of impeachment by authorizing the U.S. Supreme Court to remove a judge for cause.
Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Mo., has a proposal that requires a little syntactical attention. He would prohibit "compelling the attendance of a student in a public school other than the public school nearest the residence of such student."
There are lots more. One proposal deals with presidential pardons (these could be granted only after conviction). Another resolution would require the government to guarantee everyone a job. Several deal with financing congressional elections.
Thus far, only two proposals of constitutional amendment have gone anywhere. A Senate subcommittee has reported two proposals to mandate a balanced budget, one from Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., the other from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
During the last Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a similar resolution of futility and folly. The resolution never made it to the floor.
A couple of old conservative principles apply. One of them teaches us that if it is not necessary to amend the Constitution, it is necessary not to amend the Constitution. The other is to the same effect: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.