Congresspedia takes on constitutional amendments

As part of the expansion of Congresspedia beyond articles on individual members of Congress, we've recently created pages on the Federal Marriage Amendment and flag burning amendment. We've also created pages on the process to amend the Constitution and integrated existing pages on the Constitution itself.

The last vote on the flag burning amendment was on June 27, 2006, when it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate. The vote was 66-34 in favor, with Republicans voting in favor by 52-3, and Democrats voting against by 30-14. There was one amendment to the amendment, offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), which would have turned the constitutional amendment into a simple law and ban "flag desecration" only if it was done in conjunction with the destruction of federal property (if the flag belonged to the government), an incitement of violence or an attempt to intimidate someone. The amendment, which required a simple majority, failed in a 64-36 vote against it.

In looking over the transcripts of the debate, we noticed that senators both for (Dianne Feinstein) and against (Daniel Inouye) the amendment were constantly debating whether or not it was the flag burning or the constitutional amendment to ban flag burning that was more offensive to veterans. Being committed to dealing in documented facts rather than rhetoric at Congresspedia, we decided to take a look at how the veterans in Congress actually voted on the amendment.

Surprisingly, while a majority of veterans in the Senate did support the amendment, it was not an overwhelming majority. In fact, in the final Senate vote, 12 veteran senators voted against the amendment and 17 voted for it, which was a closer split (41 percent opposed, 59 percent in favor) than the overall Senate vote. The House, however, was much more supportive, with 20 veteran representatives against the amendment and 83 for it in a 2005 vote. (See the flag burning amendment page for a full listing of the votes.)

Have a proposed constitutional amendment you'd like to see documented on Congresspedia? We're a collaborative citizen journalism project, so create it yourself or contact the editor for help.