The Truth About That Proposed 28th Amendment

Close up of the Constitution

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In 2009, an email and text message chain went viral, sharing erroneous information, quoting a proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to wit: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives."

Here is an example email submitted by B. Peterson:

Subject: 28th Amendment!
For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens had no idea that Congress members could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they didn't pay into Social Security, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform that is being all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law. I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop.
This is a good way to do that. It is an idea whose time has come. Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States".
Each person contact a minimum of twenty people on their Address list, in turn ask each of those to do likewise. Then in three days, all people in The United States of America will have the Message. This is one proposal that really should be passed around.

Analyzing the 28th Amendment

While the idea of a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may indeed be one "whose time has come," and there's some historical truth to the claim that Congress has sometimes exempted itself from laws that apply to the rest of us, the argument outlined above is largely based on inaccurate and outdated information.

Ever since the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995, Congress has been answerable to the same civil rights and equal employment regulations that pertain to private businesses. Further alleged disparities, such as those having to do with Congressional retirement provisions and health care coverage, are misrepresented as well.

Congressional Retirement and Social Security

It's false that members of Congress can retire after only one term with full pay, and false that they don't pay into Social Security. Members elected after 1983 participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System. Members elected before 1983 participate in the older Civil Service Retirement Program. In both cases, they contribute to the plans at a slightly higher rate than ordinary federal employees. How much members of Congress receive upon retirement depends on their age, length of government service, and the configuration of their plan. All members of Congress pay into Social Security.

Congressional Immunity from Prosecution for Sexual Harassment

Once upon a time, members of Congress were exempt from many of the employment and civil rights regulations under which private businesses operate, but no longer, thanks to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. Section 201 includes prohibitions against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, as well as sexual and other harassment in the workplace.

Congressional Health Care Coverage

It's false that Congress exempted itself from the provisions of the various health care reform bills introduced in the House and Senate in 2009. According to an analysis by

"Members of Congress are subject to the legislation’s mandate to have insurance, and the plans available to them must meet the same minimum benefit standards that other insurance plans will have to meet."

Per a new regulation proposed in August 2013, the federal government would continue to subsidize the premiums of members of Congress and their staffers after they switch to health insurance plans purchased via the ACA exchange.