Restraint Key Word in Constitutional Amendments

Article excerpt

At a single moment in history, probably never to be repeated nor duplicated, some of the greatest minds of the time shared a common vision of a republican democracy. The result was one of the most farsighted documents ever devised--the Constitution of the United States.

Since the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified over 200 years ago, only 17 proposed amendments have received the required congressional supermajorities and have been ratified by three-fourths of the states to become part of that living document.

But in the 105th Congress alone, nine amendments--ranging from flag desecration to tax increases to victims' rights to campaign finance-- received subcommittee, committee or floor consideration. More of the same are forecast in a society that seems to view constitutional amendments as a panacea for its ills.

Enter the Citizens for the Constitution, a blue ribbon, bipartisan committee of former public officials, scholars, journalists and others. The committee, part of The Century Foundation's Constitution Project, has just released a publication, Great and Extraordinary Occasions: Developing Guidelines for Constitutional Change. …