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Grassley Q & A

The Bill of Rights

December 15, 2010
Dysart Reporter



Charles Grassley

Q. What is Bill of Rights Day?

A. Bill of Rights Day, which is December 15th, celebrates the day the Bill of Rights was ratified. Many states refused to ratify the U.S. Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added. On September 25, 1789, 12 amendments were proposed for ratification by the state legislatures. On December 15, 1791, amendments three through 12 were ratified and became the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.

Q. Does that mean that what is known today as the First Amendment was originally third on the list? A. Yes. The amendment that was originally first on the list of proposed amendments specified the number of constituents each representative would have. The amendment that was originally listed second prohibited any change in compensation for senators and representatives from taking effect until after an election when the people had had a chance to hold them accountable. That amendment was finally ratified on May 7, 1992, as the 27th Amendment. It is the most recent amendment to the Constitution.

Q. What does it mean to ratify something?

A. Any change to the U.S. Constitution must be ratified approved by three-fourths of the states. Article VII of the Constitution provided for the Constitution to take effect after ratification by nine states.

Q. How does the amendment process work today?

A. Any change to the U.S. Constitution still must be approved by three-fourths of the states. This can be done by having three-fourths of the state legislatures approve an amendment that has been proposed by Congress by a vote of two-thirds of both houses, or by having three-fourths of the states approve the amendment at a ratifying convention. The convention method has only been used on one approved amendment. That was the 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition. To date, there are only 27 amendments, including the Bill of Rights.

Q. Why did we need a Bill of Rights?

A. While the Constitution was designed to limit the powers delegated to the federal government so as to prevent it from trampling on individual natural rights, advocates of the Bill of Rights wanted to ensure that some of the most important rights were explicitly protected. However, in order not to give the mistaken impression that only those specified rights were protected, the 10th Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights. It states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Q. What does the Bill of Rights mean to you?

A. The Bill of Rights reinforces what our founders believed as stated in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"



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