2.2 Structure and Design of U.S. Government


Checks and Balances


Read the following article. Then answer the questions that follow.

When to Amend

One way the Constitution limits the power of the government is by making it hard to change the Constitution itself. Note that 11,000 changes to the Constitution have been suggested but only 27 have passed! This article is about the process that one recently proposed amendment is following.

In 1989, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law against flag burning. The court said flag burning was protected under the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. Congress responded to this decision by proposing an amendment that would outlaw flag burning.

Those supporting the flag-burning amendment say that the flag should be protected because it is a symbol of our nation. Those against the amendment worry that it limits rights of expression guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the Constitution. They argue that the First Amendment also protects free speech that is ugly and hateful to us. They also point out that there have been only a few reported flag burnings in our history, generally not more than five per year since 1989.

In 1995, the amendment passed in the House and failed in the Senate. It was reintroduced in the House again in 1997, and again it received approval. In 2000, the Senate debated and voted on the flag-burning amendment. The amendment received only 63 votes, 4 votes short of a two-thirds majority. On June 27, 2006, the Senate again voted down the proposed Flag Desecration Amendment by the slimmest margin ever. The vote was 66-34, just one vote short of the two-thirds needed to approve a constitutional amendment.

If two-thirds of the senators had approved it, the amendment would have been sent to the states for approval. The Constitution requires that three-fourths of the states ratify an amendment before it becomes part of the Constitution.

Are the following statements facts or opinions?

1. The flag burning amendment will never pass. ________
2. The amendment process was designed to be difficult to complete. ________
3. Those against the flag-burning amendment are unpatriotic. ________
4. For a proposed amendment to become part of the Constitution, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. ________
5. Out of 11,000 proposed amendments, only 27 have passed into law. ________


1. Opinion
2. Fact
3. Opinion
4. Fact
5. Fact