Beto O’Rourke Proposes Constitutional Amendment Limiting Presidential Pardons Seemingly Aiming At Donald Trump

The proposal would prohibit the POTUS from being able to pardon anyone tied into an investigation into him or her.

Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) speaks during a campaign rally
Ron Jenkins / Getty Images

The proposal would prohibit the POTUS from being able to pardon anyone tied into an investigation into him or her.

Beto O’Rourke has proposed a Constitutional amendment that would limit the scope of presidential pardons, in what seems to be a dig at Donald Trump, Politico reports. However, the odds of the proposed amendment being passed in time to affect Trump, if it passes at all, are quite slim.

The Constitution gives the POTUS extremely broad power when it comes to the issue of addressing criminal sentences, whether the person has done their time, is doing their time, or hasn’t yet been convicted of — or even charged with — any criminal offenses. Specifically, Article II Section II gives the office of the president almost unchecked power to pardon anyone, “except in cases of impeachment” (viz, he can’t undo an impeachment of himself or another federal official).

On Tuesday, the El Paso businessman suggested amending the Constitution to limit that presidential power. Specifically, O’Rourke wants an amendment that prohibits the POTUS from pardoning anyone associated with an investigation involving the president or his family members.

Politico writer David Siders calls the proposal a “direct rebuke” of Donald Trump.

Whether intended for Donald Trump or not, the odds of the proposal ever actually affecting Trump are slim to nil. That’s because amending the Constitution is a difficult and arduous process, and getting an amendment ratified and added to the document takes years. By the time such an amendment is ratified, if it happens at all, Trump will likely have already been out of office, via removal from office, failing to get re-elected, or even having served the two terms he is allowed by the Constitution.

WESTERVILLE, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke looks on during a break at the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. A record 12 presidential hopefuls are participating in the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
  Win McNamee / Getty Images

Specifically, the Constitution itself lays out how it can be amended. The document says that an amendment can 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 (34 of them).

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Once proposed, it would still take a vote of three-fourths of the states (that is, 38 of them) to ratify the amendment before it is enacted and officially becomes a part of the Constitution.

So difficult is the process of amending the Constitution that it has only been done 27 times in the two centuries that the Constitution has been a thing. Further, 10 of those amendments — the Bill of Rights — were effectively ratified all at once, in 1791. That means that in the 228 years between 1791 and 2019, the Constitution has been amended only 17 times, or once every 13 or so years.

The most recent amendment to the Constitution is the 27th, ratified in 1992.