Twentieth Amendment


Also found in: Acronyms, Wikipedia.

Twentieth Amendment

The Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accord-ingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

The Twentieth Amendment was proposed on March 2, 1932, and ratified on January 23, 1933. The amendment moved the date on which new presidential and vice presidential terms begin as well as the date for beginning new congressional terms, ended the abbreviated congressional session that had formerly convened in even-numbered years, and fixed procedures for presidential succession if the president-elect dies before inauguration day.

Senator george w. norris of Nebraska was the primary sponsor of the Twentieth Amendment. He was concerned about the gap between the holding of federal elections on the first Tuesday in November and the installation of the newly elected officials in March of the following year. The Constitution specified that the presidential and vice presidential terms should begin on March 4 and the congressional terms on March 3. As a result, senators and representatives who were defeated in November could remain in office and vote on measures for four months, thereby earning the name "lame ducks."

The Constitution also required Congress to hold an abbreviated session in even-numbered years from early December until the next Congress convened in March. These "lame duck" sessions were generally unproductive, as the members engaged in virtually no legislative activity. At the same time, however, these sessions provided the opportunity for defeated members to vote on measures without any accountability to the voters.

Under the Twentieth Amendment, the presidential and vice presidential terms begin on January 20, and congressional terms begin on January 3. The lame duck session requirement was also abolished.

Another section of the amendment deals with presidential succession should the president-elect die before taking office. The amendment provides that the vice president elect shall become the president-elect and take office on January 20; the amendment also authorizes Congress to legislate on other matters of presidential succession.

Further readings

Nagle, John Copeland. 1997. "A Twentieth Amendment Parable." New York University Law Review 72 (May).

Neustadt, Richard E. 2001. "The Contemporary Presidency: The Presidential 'Hundred Days': An Overview." Presidential Studies Quarterly 31 (March).

References in periodicals archive ?
Roosevelt used his powers under the Constitution's Article II, Section 3, and the Twentieth Amendment to respond to this emergency by putting Frances Perkins and other Cabinet members in office and by placing in immediate effect a large bundle of legislation.
The first relates to conditions produced by the Twentieth Amendment itself.
It did not even pause to consider the fact that the people decisively sought to limit the capacity of lame-duck Congresses by solemnly enacting the Twentieth Amendment. If we take this amendment seriously, it means that a lame-duck House should not be allowed to relieve its freshly elected successor of its solemn obligation to determine whether the nation's political life should be disrupted by a lengthy trial of the president in the Senate.
And the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment confirms that there was no general change in attitude about the role of state legislatures even though the CLA had been pending for nine years at that point.
Pursuant to the twentieth amendment, the newly-elected President now takes office on January 20 instead of March 4, and the new Congress begins on January 3 instead of when.
The above mentioned decisions were taken at a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Parliamentary Affairs that met here under the chair of the Chairperson Begum Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry to discus the lone agenda item Constitution (Twentieth Amendment) Bill, 2012.
Designed to allow the federal courts to rule on the constitutionality of state laws in advance of a criminal prosecution, it will become the twentieth amendment to the Constitution if it is ratified.
Ackerman concedes that legislative acts by a lame duck Congress are constitutionally valid; the framers of the Twentieth Amendment may have expected that by shortening the period between elections and the start of a new Congress they had eliminated lame duck sessions of Congress, but the text of the Twentieth Amendment plainly does not accomplish this result.(2)
The Twentieth Amendment, designed to eliminated lame duck sessions of Congress, sets January 3 as the date for the transition of power from one Congress to the next and January 20 as the date for the transition of power from one president to the next.
Under the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, "[t]he terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January." True to form, President Clinton was running behind schedule for his inauguration.
The parties have already shown commitment to the national causes by unanimously carrying out Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Amendments in the constitution and also giving their blessings to the adoption of the 7th NFC Award.
ISLAMABAD -- The Supreme Court was Monday asked to immediately restrain the Federal Government from appointing a caretaker Prime Minister under the constitution (Twentieth Amendments) Act which had evolved a new transition between the successive elected governments.