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01/23/2013

Textualism and the 27th Amendment
Michael Ramsey

Eugene Volokh: Would Proposed Law Suspending Payment of Congressmen’s Salary Until They Produce a Budget Violate the 27th Amendment?

As Professor Volokh frames it:

Roll Call reports:

The House GOP bill made public just as Obama’s second inauguration ceremony was getting under way would suspend the salaries of members of the House or the Senate if either chamber does not adopt a budget resolution by the April 15 deadline set by the 1974 budget process law (PL 93-344).

But the Twenty-Seventh Amendment provides,

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Of course, the purpose of the 27th Amendment was to prevent Congress from increasing its pay without an intervening election.  Does it prevent Congress from decreasing its pay?  Professor Volokh says "yes", and I agree: the Amendment doesn't say "increasing"; it says "varying," a word that includes decreasing as well as increasing.  But if you believe in interpretation according to purpose -- or, for that matter, if you believe in original intent as opposed to original meaning --does that produce a different result?

Note: more here at Constitution Daily, quoting Adam Winkler (UCLA law) and here from Michael Froomkin (Miami law).