Looking at the list of the US constitutional amendments it seems that no amendments have been successfully proposed and ratified since 1971, which is 46 years ago. Another amendment has also been ratified in 1992, but it was mostly a formality since it was introduced back in 1789. However amendments have happened quite often in the preceding decades, with 11 amendments taking place during the 20th century.

What is the reason why no new amendments are being passed for so long?

  • 2
    why do you feel the constitution needs constant amending?
    – Andy
    Sep 21, 2017 at 0:31
  • I feel obligated to point out that the Twenty-Seventh Amendment's ratification was quite far from a "formality." The amendment was essentially a dead letter for ~200 years, and then was suddenly revived in the 90's because a student decided it ought to be the law and started a letter-writing campaign. Unratified amendments have no legal effect.
    – Kevin
    Dec 12, 2023 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


The simple answer is "because there is no need to". In the past the congress had much less power, limited to only those powers given by the constitution. The rest was up to the states.

This is still the case, but since the 1930s and 1940s the power of the federal government expanded greatly after a series of Supreme Court rulings, mostly related to the Interstate Commerce clause in the constitution which has since been widely used (and according to some, abused) to pass a wide variety of laws that would have been impossible before.

This is why a constitutional amendment was needed to prohibit alcohol in 1919. See Why was the prohibition of intoxicating liquor enacted through a constitutional amendment? for more information.

Besides, all the truly "important bits" such as universal suffrage or Presidential succession have been done already. Some might argue that the U.S. political system still needs a lot of changing/fixing, which is why amendments are still being proposed all the time, but few are as acute as, say, allowing women to vote.
In addition, current levels of polarisation make it difficult to actually pass anything.

  • 2
    I suspect prohibition was just as polarizing in its time. Now, banning Justing Bieber might get bipartisan support.
    – user4012
    Apr 22, 2017 at 14:03
  • 2
    @user4012 You made a one letter typo. And I don't see how you could ever get bipartisan support to ban Jousting Biebers.
    – Peter
    Apr 22, 2017 at 19:54
  • 1
    I'm sure it will appear that all the important bits have been done already until some new important bit gets proposed and gains widespread support. In light of the Supreme Court nomination issue, I wouldn't be surprised to see an amendment attempting to force Congress to respond to Presidential nominations gaining traction. Apr 23, 2017 at 1:58
  • 2
    You hinted at it but perhaps you should say more clearly that the Supreme Court has taken an active role in changing the Constitution through rulings based on the mood of the country. So, for example while individual states have always had the ability to define "marriage" for themselves, the Supreme Court decided that they could no longer do so - pre-empting the desire to create an amendment that would legalize 'gay marriage' nationwide.
    – Readin
    Apr 23, 2017 at 5:59
  • 2
    I would've included the necessary and proper clause with the interstate commerce clause. Apr 28, 2017 at 20:46

Amending the Constitution is hard, by design. The details are in Article V of the same, and have also been well explained.

Paralleling the expansion of the Federal Government, there was the rise of the "Living Document" perspective for reviewing the Constitution, originating in 1927. It is closely associated with the concept of judicial pragmatism, demonstrated in Missouri V. Holland. If you see the Constitution as a living document, where the words are dynamic and can be interpreted as the times change, you don't need to amend it.

  • 1
    It is far easier to convince 5 members of a Supreme Court to vote your way then it is to go through the intentionally difficult process of amending the Constitution.
    – Readin
    Sep 22, 2017 at 5:43
  • Unfortunately, Marbury v. Madison has been interpreted in a way which grossly exaggerates the Supreme Court's authority. If the Supreme Court is legitimately doing its job, what it says and what the law is will be one and the same, even if the underlying statutes are unclear. That does not mean that anything the Supreme Court says magically becomes law. The Supreme Court has no authority to render decisions that are binding upon anyone other than the parties before it. If a lesser court issues a ruling which would contradict a Supreme Court decision, it will likely be overturned, ...
    – supercat
    Feb 21, 2021 at 19:19
  • ...and a judge that makes a habit of writing decisions that are overturned on that basis might be impeached. Consequently, lower courts will seek to write decisions that are consistent with higher courts, but if a lower court judge believes that applying the Constitution and statutes to the facts of the particular case before him would compel a ruling that would appear to contradict a precedent, the judge would be bound by oath to give higher priority to upholding the Constitution and statutes than to upholding higher-court decisions.
    – supercat
    Feb 21, 2021 at 19:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .