Amendments to the Constitution
After the Civil War, the Judiciary Committee played a pivotal role in the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution), and all subsequent amendments, except the 16th Amendment (Income Tax) and the 27th Amendment (Compensation for Members of Congress).
|Consideration of Constitutional Amendments |
By the Judiciary Committee
|13th Amendment |
|Reported by the Committee, Feb. 1864 |
|14th Amendment |
|Bypassed Committee consideration |
|15th Amendment |
(Rights of Citizens to vote)
|Reported by the Committee, May 1869 |
|17th Amendment |
(Election of Senators)
|Reported by the Committee, May 1911 |
|18th Amendment (Prohibition of Liquor) |
|Reported by the Committee, June 1917 |
|19th Amendment |
|Hearings held |
|20th Amendment |
(Start of presidential terms)
|Reported by the Committee, Jan. 1932 |
|21st Amendment |
|Reported by the Committee, Jan.1933 |
|22nd Amendment (Presidential term limits) |
|Reported by the Committee, Feb. 1947 |
|23rd Amendment |
(Electoral College for DC)
|24th Amendment |
(Abolition of the Poll Tax)
|25th Amendment (Presidential succession) |
|Reported by the Committee, Feb. 1965 |
|26th Amendment |
|Reported by the Committee, Feb. 1971 |
In the First Session of the 38th
Congress, the Judiciary Committee drafted what would become the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. In January 1864, Senator John Henderson of Missouri proposed a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude. Chairman Lyman Trumball introduced a similar proposal, which amounted to a resolution to amend the Constitution to prohibit slavery and servitude, and declare "that Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by proper legislation," in February 1864. It ultimately became the 13th Amendment, which was passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified by the States in December 1865.
In January 1866, Judiciary Chairman Trumbull introduced two bills, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and a bill to expand the powers of the Freedman's Bureau. Both bills were referred to the Judiciary Committee and ordered reported, containing virtually identical language entitling all citizens "to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person." The Judiciary Committee's consideration of civil rights laws during Reconstruction were crucial in the drafting of the 14th Amendment, which applied the same constitutional rights to the States.
In January 1869, the Judiciary Committee reported a proposed Constitutional amendment that read: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." One year later on February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified. The final language of the 15th Amendment was similar to the Judiciary Committee amendment, though it omitted the guarantee of the right to hold office.
In 1872, Susan B. Anthony petitioned Congress for remission of a fine imposed by the State of New York for attempting to vote and the matter was referred to the Judiciary Committee. On January 23, 1880, Anthony testified before the Committee along with other leaders of the women's suffrage movement. Forty more years would pass, however, before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage, on May 28, 1919, reported a resolution that was passed by Congress and ratified by the States as the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.