The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States: PART I

Ashcroft’s cavalier approach to amending the Constitution

As the foundational document of our government, the Constitution is not something that should be amended lightly. Indeed, in the more than 200 years since it was ratified, the Constitution has been amended only 27 times (including the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights). Nonetheless, in his single term in the United States Senate, John Ashcroft introduced or co-sponsored no fewer than seven proposed constitutional amendments (none of which was adopted by Congress), including the extremist "Human Life Amendment" discussed above. He publicly supported several other possible amendments as well.

Senator Ashcroft was the sole sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed the very framework so carefully constructed by the Framers for amending the Constitution. S.J. Res. 58 (July 31, 1996). Ashcroft’s proposal would have authorized two-thirds of the states to propose constitutional amendments to Congress and required that those amendments be submitted to the state legislatures for ratification unless disapproved by two-thirds of the members of each House of Congress during the session in which it was submitted, a very high hurdle for defeating a proposed amendment. Ashcroft’s measure would have made it easier for the Constitution to be amended, and thus easier for it to become the vehicle for the advancement of political and ideological agendas. In an editorial entitled "Mr. Ashcroft’s Unwise Amendment," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Aug. 10, 1996) called this proposal "unwise, unnecessary and potentially dangerous," and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (Aug. 10, 1996) termed it "drastic constitutional tinkering."

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