Strengthening the Constitution: The 25th and 26th Amendments
of the Constitutional Subcommittee throughout his 18 years in the Senate, Senator Bayh was the principal architect of both
the 25th and 26th Amendments. No other American since James Madison has drafted more than one successful Constitutional Amendment.
In the wake of President Kennedy’s
assassination, Senator Bayh addressed the Constitution’s dangerously weak and vague provisions for Presidential and
Vice-Presidential succession. The resulting 25th Amendment (passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified in 1967) created a process
for an orderly transition of power in the case of death, disability, or resignation of the President, and a method of selecting
a Vice President when a vacancy occurs in that office. It proved its value to the nation only a few years later, when it guided
the transfer of Presidential and Vice-Presidential power in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation.
Senator Bayh’s passionate belief in extending the civil rights of young Americans
– a cause he had fought for since his earliest days as a state legislator – led him to spearhead efforts to lower
the national voting age from 21 to 18. The resulting 26th Amendment was passed and ratified in 1971. At the stroke of a pen,
it enfranchised 11 million Americans who previously had been considered old enough to die for their country in war but too
young to vote for their president. In the four decades since the amendment’s passage, it has allowed countless others
to participate in the political process.
addition to these two successful Amendments, Senator Bayh was also the Senate’s principal sponsor of the Equal Rights
Amendment, which would have barred discrimination on the basis of sex. The Amendment passed Congress but failed to be ratified
by three-fourths of the states.