Photo of George Washington declaring freedom and discussing spending and taxing ourselves into unsustainable debt in 1787.
Senator Tom Coburn is calling on Oklahomans to push for a National Constitutional Convention. After having read Mark Levin’s book, The Liberty Amendment, Coburn believes it is the way to cut down our oversized federal government and counter the lawless Obama administration.
On Wednesday, he told an audience of about 300 people in Muskogee, ‘I used to have a great fear of constitutional conventions. I have a great fear now of not having one.’
If two-thirds of the state legislatures called for a national convention, they could amend the Constitution on limited issues such as Obamacare, taxes, welfare and other pressing matters that Obama is deciding unilaterally.
People are in fear of it in that they believe it could be hijacked, leaving us with a radically changed Constitution. There is a feeling, however, among many on the right, that Obama has already hijacked the Constitution and our government.
In April, Indiana’s legislature failed to act on a call for a convention to redefine the relationship between the states and the overreaching government.
To give a little background, there are two ways to amend the Constitution.
The first method allows Congress to propose amendments when such amendments are approved by at least a two‐thirds vote in both houses. The States can then ratify the proposed amendments. The second method is less familiar to most people, as it has never been used.
The latter method, Article V of the Constitution, requires Congress to call a constitutional convention to propose amendments when two‐thirds of the States apply for such a convention (Convention Clause).
The later is the fail-safe for a government out of control.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
While a states convention has never been called, it came close in the case of the 17th Amendment and may have been used to spur the 21st, 22nd, and 25th Amendments.
The first almost successful convention fell short of one vote over the apportionment of the vote after the SCOTUS decisions in Wesberry v. Sanders and Reynolds v. Sims because of fear that it could not be limited to one issue. They also lost interest in the issue and saw it as less threatening to rural issues than they originally believed.
The second nearly-successful attempt at a convention was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s over a balanced budget Amendment. It prompted the Congress to vote on the issue. The Republican-controlled Senate passed a balanced budget Amendment but the Democratically-controlled House did not approve it. The states did not spur the Amendment to realization.
Some believe that Congress could control the convention and limit the issues but others believe it cannot be limited by Congress as their role is strictly ministerial and must be left to the states. Still others believe the states can indeed control it.
It is believed that states can limit the convention by calling for a convention on specific issues only. They could also pass an amendment to appoint an independent body to control the rules and procedures of the convention.
The last Constitutional Convention was in 1787 and we know how that turned out. However, a convention is only one step in the process. It would take three-fourths of the states to ratify it. It is unlikely that a runaway convention is even possible. It would take thirty-eight states to approve it and if they did approve it, the amendment would most likely be popular and legitimate.
If nothing else, it might spur Congress to act.
The most popular amendments are not in the best interests of Congress whose members do not want to see their powers limited. They have been and continue to be: Balanced budget amendment; Require that judges interpret the laws and not write them; Term limits on Senators or Representatives; Prohibit Congress from passing laws affecting state governments unless Congress gives the funding needed to pay for those laws; Permit prayer at school meetings or ceremonies; Allow Congress to regulate the amount of personal funds a candidate may spend in a campaign; Define marriage in all states as the union of a man and a woman.
We now have Obamacare and other issues to add to the list.
All evidence points to states being able to limit the scope of the convention and this powerful tool should be considered to control a government run amok.
We are in desperate times and that calls for desperate measures.
There is a group people can join to encourage just such a convention. Go to conventionofstates.com and volunteer.
Sources: Tulsa World and The Other Way to Amend the Constitution – Harvard Law School