Calls for a Convention of States as recommended by Mark Levin have grown louder and the latest to join the chorus of leaders who want the federal government reined in is Texas Governor Greg Abbott though it’s not clear his state will follow.
There has never been a Convention of the States and it would be an extremely serious venture. It is the one of two ways the US Constitution can be amended as described in Article V. Article V aims to make structural changes or further clarifications to the operations of the federal government and its relation to the states by amending the Constitution.
A convention takes place when two-thirds of state legislatures call for a convention to restore power to the states.
Once a Convention takes place, there are no guarantees it wouldn’t grow out of control, Republicans in support say because they believe their control over the majority of state governments would enable them to maintain control. They also believe it would be controlled by the fact that only specific issues would be addressed. Any changes would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Conservative advocates for this process believe that this is the revolution we need to have now because the federal government is dangerously out of control.
So far, the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times. None of those were amendments were generated by a constitutional convention.
So far 27 states have signed petitions for a Convention with only 34 needed. They hope to return the United States to a more limited form of government.
Abbott’s 70-page summary plan names the amendments he would like to see pursued.
“When measured by how far we have strayed from the Constitution we originally agreed to, the government’s flagrant and repeated violations of the rule of law amount to a wholesale abdication of the Constitution’s design. That constitutional problem calls for a constitutional solution, just as it did at our Nation’s founding,” Abbott wrote.
He continued: “…the entire structure of the Constitution was premised on the idea that the States would be stronger than the national government.” Therefore, Abbott argues, “the States must step up and lead; and thanks to the Founders’ prescience, the Constitution itself provides the path forward.”
“If we are going to fight for, protect and hand on to the next generation, the freedom that [President] Reagan spoke of … then we have to take the lead to restore the rule of law in America,” Abbott said during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation.
“The irony for our generation is that the threat to our Republic doesn’t come just from foreign enemies, it comes, in part, from our very own leaders.”
One of his amendments is to return regulation of intrastate activity to the states as the Constitution intended.
The plan lays out nine specific proposed amendments that would:
- Prohibit congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state.
- Require Congress to balance its budget.
- Prohibit administrative agencies from creating federal law.
- Prohibit administrative agencies from pre-empting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law
- Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a federal law or regulation.
It’s hard not to love some of these.
A convention, Abbott wrote, would force the federal government to “take the Constitution seriously again.”
“The only true downside comes from doing nothing and allowing the federal government to continue ignoring the very document that created it,” Abbott wrote.
Others say the problem is not the constitution.
The dangers are not insignificant. For example who will the delegates be and what is their agenda; it could take five to ten years and a lot can happen in that time; and the ultimate fear is a runaway convention. Then again, what if we do nothing, supporters say.
Some suggest a combination of nullification and an Article V convention is the way to proceed.
Nullification, in United States constitutional history, is a legal theory that a state has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional. It has been largely upheld in federal courts because the federal government is by contract beholden to the states. The states contracted to form the federal government and are its final arbiters.
Nullification isn’t used often enough. States should be regularly defining the boundaries of the federal government.
“The constitution has served us well for over 200 years. The problem is not the constitution,” State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls said, adding that the solution is to elect more conservative lawmakers. “Slap a bumper sticker for Ted Cruz on your car and get after it and knock yourself out.”
My concern with a Convention of States is not so much a runaway convention but rather who will the states elect to represent them. Some will be Democrats who are now socialists and communists. It’s a concern.