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10 Weirdest Failed Constitutional Amendments


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Abolish the United States Senate, 1911
Socialist Wisconsin Rep. Victor Berger thought he could urge the Senate to act by introducing an amendment to abolish the body altogether. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Socialist Wisconsin Rep. Victor Berger thought he could urge the Senate to act by introducing an amendment to abolish the body altogether. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Sometimes, in order to get what you want, you have to act a little crazy. That's exactly the strategy employed by Wisconsin Rep. Victor Berger in April 1911, when he introduced a resolution to abolish the Senate. Not only was it a radical proposal, but it seemed highly unlikely to succeed considering two-thirds of the very body it sought to eliminate would have to vote for the amendment in order to send it to the states for ratification.

When Berger submitted his zany idea, Congress was in the midst of debating another amendment that was pretty revolutionary in its own right. It was a proposal to change the way senators were elected. At that time, state legislatures made this choice, but the new amendment would allow the American people to decide through direct elections. This change, supporters hoped, would remove the forces of corruption, money and influence from the Senate.

The Senate, however, was in no rush to formally endorse the idea of direct elections, which they had managed to ignore since it was first proposed in 1826. Berger figured a competing amendment to abolish the chamber altogether might be just the encouragement his colleagues needed to take action. Perhaps in part because of Berger's efforts, the Senate finally approved the direct popular vote proposal in May 1912, and it eventually became the 17th Amendment [sources: United States Senate, Vile].


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