The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
Ratified on January 23, 1933, this amendment dealt with several organizational changes to the government. As I noted in the post on the 18th Amendment, organizational change was one of the driving factors for an amendment, and the need to change government organization, or authorities, and the use of amendments to do so was set with the adoption of the 11th and 12th amendments early in our history.
It seems to me, the most significant changes brought with this amendment was the elimination of about 6 weeks of time when the past President would still be office as a “lame duck.” The original confederation had set March 4th as the date of inauguration, and our framers carried that over. At the time, there was good reason for this, allowing for the votes to be counted, the electoral college assembled and vote, and the President and Vice President elect to travel to the Capital. With the improvements in transportation this was no longer necessary.
It also clarified the transition of power, and we saw its use during the Nixon administration when Gerald Ford first replaced Spiro Agnew and then Richard Nixon, and Nelson Rockefeller assumed the role of VP.
Finally, it actually specified when the Congressional term should begin. The constitution never set a date for the meetings, only the term of office, so technically they could have met in December and called it a day. Hmmmm, I wonder if we would be better served if that were actually the case?