Article V rules how the constitution can be amended, provided that

... no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Given these texts, it seems that the content of an amendment has some restrictions. However, if the legislators and the states want to amend one of these provided conditions, say equal Suffrage in the Senate, can't they just do two amendments, in which one amends article V itself followed by the Senate related amendment? In this sense, the threshold to amend the Senate rules is not really increased, despite a possibly longer amendment procedure.

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    There is actually historical precedent for violating the equal representation in the Senate clause during the U.S. Civil War and the early part of Reconstruction.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 22, 2016 at 18:16
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    @ohwilleke: I don't think it would be that since the Confederate States just didn't send Senators because they did not want to be a part of the country, thus those states consented to their deprevation of equal suffrage in the senate. If anything, the Civil war show's congress trying to force them to come back. The early part of the Reconstruction period would not have Senators seated because they had not been re-admitted back into the union yet.
    – hszmv
    Aug 25, 2022 at 13:59
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    The 14th Amendment does allow for states who refuse to provide people equal rights to lose Representatives if states refuse to let certain groups of people vote if it is counter to constitutional definitions of who should be eligible to vote. This was to prevent states from leaving African Americans disenfranchised following the abolishment of slavery. That this clause wasn't exercised more speaks to congresses willingness to dole out the punishment, not the law. It still won't allow for a reduction in Senate seats.
    – hszmv
    Aug 25, 2022 at 14:04

2 Answers 2


The last part, about equal suffrage in the Senate, does not expire. The question is whether it can be itself amended out of existence. There has been no test of that possibility. This article argues that this may not be subject to amendment. There is only one way to find out for sure. The idea is that the original intent was that this is supposed to be an absolute clause, but of course that only speaks to original intention (and the original intention is not clear, as the article discusses).

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    The structure of the Senate can certainly be changed by unanimous consent of the states.
    – phoog
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:04

This is a common case of eternity clause. I'm more familiar with the case of France, where the last clause of the last article (which is about constitutional amendments) of the constitution states that (translation mine) "The republican nature of the government shall not be changed." It is commonly considered that this clause could be removed by constitutional amendment, possibly followed by another amendment changing the regime to a monarchy or to an autocracy.

In cases where the eternity clause noes not protect itself, as is the case in the french example and in the Article V you're referencing, it is commonly considered that the objective and consequence of the clause is to require a longer and more deliberate amending process. In france it's relatively easy to amend the constitution, but in the US it would require two rounds of ratification by 3/4 of the states, the second unable to start before the first is complete... One could consider this a sufficient obstacle to match the intent of the drafters of that clause.

On the contrary, in Germany, there is one eternity clause that protects itself, as well as other parts of the constitution. The common two-step process to remove it would not work in that case, because that's another kind of eternity clause, which is not the one found in the US constitution.

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