Twentieth Amendment

to the United States Constitution, adopted January 23, 1933

by Sherri L. Renner, J.D.

The Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the “Lame Duck Amendment,” was added to the Constitution on January 23, 1933.

The Twentieth Amendment moved the start of the presidential term from March 4th to January 20th, and the beginning of the congressional term from March 4th to January 3rd. This of course shortened the time between the election of a new President and Congress, and the start of their new terms in office.

Before the amendment was adopted, outgoing officials could continue to make decisions and take actions that were not supported by the newly elected officials. The Amendment, therefore, helps to ensure that the government is more responsive to the will of the people as expressed in the most recent election.

The Amendment also improved the efficiency of government by allowing the new officials to take office sooner and begin working on the issues that they were elected to address. This reduced the amount of time that the government was in transition and allowed it to function more smoothly.

Finally, it helped to align the terms of the President and Congress, which had been out of sync since the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.

The Twentieth Amendment was an important reform that made the U.S. government more responsive to the will of the people and more efficient in its operations. The full text appears below.

The Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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 accordingly 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.

Copyright © 2023 by Sherri L. Renner, J.D. | All rights reserved

About the Author

Sherri Renner, J.D., is the founder of LawYou America. She fully dedicates her education and years of litigation experience to helping the self-represented.

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