As many of you already know, Article V of the U.S. Constitution lays out the process for amending the Constitution. Congress can amend the Constitution if two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate propose an amendment, and ¾ of the state legislatures then ratify it.
However, George Mason and others, realizing the dangers of an all-powerful centralized government, insisted that this authority not be limited to just the national government. Therefore, the second clause of Article V was included as a check on federal power. It specifies that if two-thirds of the States propose an amendment, and ¾ of the States then ratify it, the Constitution can be directly amended by state legislatures as well (bypassing Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court).
The latter method for amending the Constitution has never been used before. That being said, our country has arguably never been in such dire straits, apart from events leading up to the Civil War. With our federal government having become so large, unresponsive, burdensome, and intrusive, Americans across the country are realizing that the States must act.
Thankfully, there is now a very coordinated nationwide effort to use the remedy the Founders gave us in Article V to reign in the power of the federal government and re-establish the balance of shared power with the States.
There are two main concerns I hear from folks just learning about this method of redress. The first is they fear this could turn into a “Constitutional Convention” (aka a “con-con”). They theorize leftists and other extremists could influence the process and we could have a “runaway convention” that would discard our Constitution and write a new one. However there is zero risk of this, and I will explain why.
First, the houses and senates from two-thirds (34) of the states have to come together and submit applications to Congress to call a convention. These applications must specify the subject matter of the convention. The legislatures then pick delegates (called “commissioners”) to represent each state, and these commissioners are given specific instructions on what they can – and cannot – do. If a commissioner wanders off topic, they are immediately pulled back by the states (some states even have criminal penalties). The convention itself would fall apart if subject matter outside of the application is addressed or proposed, as the applications would become invalid.
Once the convention actually proposes amendments, these are sent back to the state legislatures for ratification. At that point ¾ (38) of the states would need their general assemblies to ratify the amendments. In other words, if either the house or the senate in just 13 states did not vote to approve an amendment, the effort would fail. Also, any “irregularities” would be subject to court challenges (you can bet that not only the states, but the federal government, will be watching this process very closely). Don’t you wish there were that many checks on a runaway Congress?
The second concern cited is that our government, since it is already ignoring the Constitution, would not see itself as being bound by the amendments ratified by the States. However, when considering the safeguards described above, one realizes that the process of getting a convention called, amendments proposed, and finally ratified will have required tremendous public support. Would Congress dare to ignore the will of The People in this case? Perhaps, but it is not likely. Besides, they don’t really perceive themselves as ignoring the Constitution. This is because the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in a manner that supports their actions (i.e. Obamacare). Any amendment we would pass would be nearly impossible to “interpret away” as the wording would be quite clear.
This actually segues into a very important goal of proposing amendments: the objective is not to REWRITE the Constitution (as mentioned above, the Supreme Court already does that). Instead the purpose is to CLARIFY and RESTORE the Constitution, keeping in mind the original intent of a limited federal government with few and defined (enumerated) powers. All other matters are to be left to the States.
The strategy is this: our state legislatures must “call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” While calling for a convention to discuss single items such as a BBA (balanced budget amendment) is also an option (Michigan just became the 23rd state to pass such an application), taking a broader approach allows us to discuss multiple popular amendments such as term limits, doing away with “omnibus bills” (instead limiting bills to a single issue), simplification of the tax code, and more. Others proposed by Barry, Natelson, and Levin include:
(From the Convention of States web site):
· A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
· A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
· A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
· A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
· Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
· Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
· Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes
We are anticipating that we will have perhaps five states by the end of the legislative session this spring – which is pretty impressive, since the COS organization started just this last August. Sen. Kevin Lundberg will propose a resolution calling for a convention before the State Affairs Committee here in Colorado next week (April 9th at 1:30 pm).
Many of us are familiar with the saying “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” It should be clear to everyone by now that the federal government will never do anything meaningful to limit its own power. It is now up to The People and their state legislatures to use the authority granted them by the Founders in Article V. It is time to restore our Constitution and our liberties, and re-establish federalism in order to have more local control and accountability in our government!