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上一篇:003 The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.

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004 What is an amendment?

时间:2018-05-01   访问量:1864   View PDF
4. What is an amendment?
? A change (to the Constitution)
? An addition (to the Constitution)

The men who wrote the U.S. Constitution knew that their document was not perfect. That is why they included ways to change or add laws to the Constitution in the future. The fifth article (or section) of the Constitution says that Americans can change the Constitution in two ways. The first way is to have another Constitutional Convention, a big meeting where representatives from all of the states would gather and decide on the changes, just like they did when the Constitution was written in Philadelphia in 1787. This way, however, has never been used. There has never been a second Constitutional Convention.

The second and more common way to change the Constitution has two steps. First, Congress (the group of elected national representatives) passes (or approves) a special law to change or add something to the Constitution. This change or addition is called an amendment. Two-thirds (or 67%) of the members of Congress has to vote in favor of (or say “yes” to approve) this amendment. Then the amendment must be approved by three-fourths (or 75%) of the states. Getting two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states to agree is not an easy thing to do, and that is why there are not very many amendments to the Constitution. The President cannot create amendments and does not have the right (or power or ability) to veto, or say no to, amendments. After three-fourths of the states approve the amendment that has already been approved by Congress, the amendment officially becomes part of the Constitution.

Many of the rights that Americans believe are extremely important in the United States are actually not in the original Constitution of 1787. Instead they are in amendments to the Constitution. Freedom of religion, the right to vote regardless of someone’s skin color or sex (being a man or woman), and who can be a citizen are all described in different amendments to the Constitution.

Amendments can be repealed (or taken back) by passing other amendments. Only one amendment has been repealed in the history of the United States. The Eighteenth Amendment made it illegal (or against the law) to make or sell alcohol, such as beer and wine. This amendment was called the Prohibition amendment, because to prohibit means not to allow something, or to make something illegal. The Eighteenth Amendment was approved in 1919. However, the Twenty-First Amendment, passed in 1933, repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, so today Americans can make and sell alcohol again.


article – a section or part, especially of a legal document
* This law has 39 articles.

Congress – the legislative (lawmaking) part of the U.S. government; the group of elected national representatives
* Have you ever visited the building where Congress meets in Washington, DC?

amendment – a change or addition, especially to the U.S. Constitution
* The 19th Amendment made it legal for women vote in the United States.

to vote in favor of (something) – to vote for something; to vote "yes" on something; to vote to approve something
* Why did you vote in favor of increasing taxes?

right – the power or ability to do something; a freedom
* Americans have many rights to believe and say whatever they want, as long as it cannot hurt other people.

to veto – to vote against something; to reject something, especially so that it cannot become a law
* How many times has the president vetoed a new law?

to repeal – to take back; to undo something, especially a law that was already made
* The city made a law that all teenagers must be home by 9:00, but it was very unpopular and was quickly repealed.

illegal – against the law; not legal
* In the United states, it is illegal to drink alcohol if you are less than 21 years old.

Prohibition – the period of time when there were laws against making, buying, and selling alcohol in the United States
* Many Americans bought alcohol illegally during the Prohibition.

上一篇:003 The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.

下一篇:005 What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?