Herman Cain Doesn’t Know How The Constitution Is Amended

Ben Smith grabs the quote:

Herman Cain tried to clean up the running confusion over his position on abortion last night, but in the meantime opened questions about his grasp of the Constitution.

In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he’d sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.

“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it,” he said. “That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”

The only problem with that statement? Presidents don’t sign constitutional amendments — they’re passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.

Details, details.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DRW1960 says:

    In your write up you state he said, “If it comes to my desk I’ll sign it.” The article you also posted states at the bottom that if passed other Presidents had signed it (bottom paragraph). So, what is wrong in Mr. Cain showing his support by signing it? He clearly stated, “That’s all I can do. I’ll sign it.”

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment.

  3. Murray says:

    What a surprise, the guy is just on a vamped up book tour. He’s a businessman applying the Palin playbook to milk his supporters for all they are worth.

    As for GOP frontrunners, first Trump, then Bachmann, then Perry and now Cain. Enjoy your 15 minutes Herman.

    P.S: paying any attention to this clown is very Inside The Beltway thinking. .

  4. @PD Shaw:

    A meaningless act. Cain should know better

  5. sam says:

    Maybe he confused our constitution with that of U-becki-becki-becki stan. Stan.

  6. Bob says:

    You left out flip flop Romney the media’s choice

  7. DRW1960 says:

    I guess Abraham Lincoln was confused too. 13th Amendment submitted to the states that was signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress.: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.html

  8. sam says:


    I guess Abraham Lincoln was confused too. 13th Amendment submitted to the states that was signed by Abraham Lincoln

    That was purely ceremonial. The president has no constitutional role in the amendment process. Herman thinks the president does.

    The Constitutional Amendment Process

    The authority to amend the Constitution of the United States is derived from Article V of the Constitution. After Congress proposes an amendment, the Archivist of the United States, who heads the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.C. 106b. The Archivist has delegated many of the ministerial duties associated with this function to the Director of the Federal Register. Neither Article V of the Constitution nor section 106b describe the ratification process in detail. The Archivist and the Director of the Federal Register follow procedures and customs established by the Secretary of State, who performed these duties until 1950, and the Administrator of General Services, who served in this capacity until NARA assumed responsibility as an independent agency in 1985.

    The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal “red-line” copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b….

    In recent history [and not so recent — Lincoln and the 13th], the signing of the certification has become a ceremonial function attended by various dignitaries, which may include the President. President Johnson signed the certifications for the 24th and 25th Amendments as a witness, and President Nixon similarly witnessed the certification of the 26th Amendment along with three young scholars.

  9. DRW1960 says:

    Exactly. And as I said in my original -first- post, Mr. Cain’s stated ““If it comes to my desk I’ll sign it.” That is all he said.

  10. sam says:


    Nice try, but I think Herm thinks the president signs amendments just as he or she signs laws.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    If you look at some of the discussion of Hollingsworth v. Virginia, you can see that the effect of the Presidential signature is still an open discussion.

    For those interested in Lincoln, it was either (a) a mistake, (b) a dig at James Buchanan, who signed the previous attempt at the (anti-) Thirteenth Amendment or (c) part of an effort to limit Congressional control over reconstruction.

  12. anjin-san says:

    Cain should know better

    Really? He has shown us pretty conclusively that anything other than pizza is beyond him. Do you have any basis for expecting more?

  13. BleevK says:

    Vote for me, I’m an idiot too.

  14. sam says:

    @PD Shaw:

    If you look at some of the discussion of Hollingsworth v. Virginia, you can see that the effect of the Presidential signature is still an open discussion.

    But that was a 1798 case, limited to the facts presented. And if you mean by ‘open,’ the Court has not ruled definitively. OK. But are we to believe that Herman Cain is conversant with the (non)holding in Hollingsworth? I’m pretty sure that would be a stretch.

    As a matter of fact, I’d be prepared to argue that constitutional amendments do not fall under the constitutional injunction that “every order, resolution, or vote, to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States.”

    And this because amendments to the constitution are not laws or orders or resolutions at all (and votes threreon are not votes in the ordinary sense), but rather are akin to what the Greeks called nomoi: the foundation upon which all actual laws or resolutions or orders derive their being. This is really a question of constitutional ontology.

  15. KJW says:

    Cain knows more than pizza. He was a rocket scientist, a business analyst/ advisor as well banking. His econmic platform has been endorsed by Michael Reagan, Art Laffer and Club for Growth. It is his executive experience and ability to build a great team that make him credible. He isnt a lawyer

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @sam, I’m not suggesting a President’s signature is required; I am suggesting that the President’s signature may have legal implications.

    The approval process isn’t without controversies: Buchanan signed a proposed Constitutional amendment at a time when several states had withdrawn from the Union and passage was premised on 2/3rds present. Since the President is the most likely officer to have standing to object to whether the Constitutional requirements for amendment have been secured, the signature would evidence assent to the legitimacy of the process used.