Reason Roundup

Justice Department Tells States the Equal Rights Amendment Is Dead

Plus: Rand Paul says White House's war-powers arguments are "absurd," the Cato Institute wants Congress to investigate the FBI, and more...


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) may have made sense for a certain time and place, but Democrats' continued attachment to this 20th century relic has never made much sense. So it's not with much chagrin that I report that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has declared the ERA dead.

Initially, Congress said the ERApassed in 1972would be obsolete if not ratified by the required three-quarters of state legislatures by a 1979 deadline. Later, Congress extended this deadline to 1982. It still wasn't met.

"We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States," DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel said in a January 6 opinion, released yesterday.

In recent years, two new states voted to ratify the long-dead legislationNevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018—and Virginia is expected to do so this year, becoming the long-needed 38th state. But some states that do not support the ERA have been asking, What about that deadline? So the National Archives and Records Administration (which is tasked with verifying state ratification) asked the DOJ for guidance.

It would be fine, the Office of Legal Counsel said, for "Congress to restart the ratification process by proposing it anew." But it takes issue with the idea that "the congressional deadline was invalid or could be retroactively nullified by Congress."

"The Supreme Court has upheld Congress's authority to impose a deadline for ratifying a proposed constitutional amendment," states the DOJ's opinion. "Both Houses of Congress, by the requisite two-thirds majorities, adopted the terms of the ERA Resolution, including the ratification deadline, and the state legislatures were well aware of that deadline when they considered the resolution."

This ruling "doesn't directly affect the litigation," University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck told CNN. But "unless it is overruled by the attorney general or the president, it likely will bind the archivistmeaning that the only way a new ratification by a state like Virginia would likely be effective is if the courts say so."


"The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it," said President Donald Trump in a televised address to Iran yesterday.

"This is unequivocally good news," as Eric Boehm wrote at Reason yesterday. "But once the threat of war has mostly passed, observers should start asking: What exactly has the saber-rattling of the past week accomplished for the United States?"

The House will vote today on a War Powers Resolution sponsored by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D–Mich.). It mirrors the one that Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine introduced in the Senate, and it says the Authorization for Use of Military Force that preceded the second Iraq war doesn't mean Trump can target Iran at his will.

"In the briefing and in public, this administration has argued that the vote to topple Saddam Hussein in 2002 applies to military action in Iraq," Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) told CNN yesterday. "That is absurd. Nobody in their right mind—with a straight face, with an ounce of honesty—can argue when Congress voted to go after Saddam Hussein in 2002 that (they) authorized military force against an Iranian general 18 years later."

Meanwhile…Lindsey Graham, folks:


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