Box: Is Abbott’s call for an Article V Convention of States a good idea?

Box: Is Abbott's call for an Article V Convention of States a good idea?

Governor Abbott Joined the Movement for an Article V Convention of the States—and Here’s Why It’s Imperative

Recently, Texas governor Greg Abbott joined the growing Article V Convention of States movement by adding Texas to the list of states willing to send delegates to a convention. Some have criticized this move as grandstanding, or an attempt to raise his national profile. Personally, I don’t care why Abbott finally threw Texas’ hat into the ring—I’m just glad he did.

The Founding Fathers were geniuses. Pure, unadulterated, propelled-by-God geniuses.  Their genius is exhibited throughout the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution—and  when the Founders, at nearly the last minute of the Constitutional Convention, placed into the document Article V, they not only showed brilliance but sooth-saying clairvoyance.

The Founders knew that, eventually, even the best government in human history they had established would turn to rot—as all governments do. No, it was not the governing document that had turned the government to rot—it was the people running it, and the bureaucratic machine supplying the engine of destruction. Therefore, Founder and future President James Madison insisted on Article V of the Constitution, which reads:

“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 Amendments, 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.”

In layman’s terms, the Article simply states that whenever the cogs of government became too unwieldy or burdensome to the citizenry, or when Congress itself became complicit in the country’s demise, a federalist (state) remedy was available. Not only could the Congress propose and ratify Amendments to the Constitution, but so could the states propose amendments. As in a Congressional amendment, three-fourths of the states must ratify each amendment.

In the past seven years—and, let’s be honest, for a long time before then—the federal government has grown enormously in scope and power, amassing an unimaginable $18 trillion debt that, even if the federal government confiscated every dime from its citizens, would not even make a dent in its payment. We have a president who thinks because he has a “pen and a phone” he can override Congress’ proper role in treaties, legislation, regulatory powers, and the like. We have a Supreme Court so rogue and unaccountable that one or two individuals essentially overrule the will of the People on issue after issue, not to mention shoving grossly unconstitutional mandates like Obamacare down Americans’ throats. We have out-of-control spending that never seems to end. Crony capitalism rules the day. Reckless legislators get reelected time and again because there are no term limits on any branch of government, save the Executive Branch.  Our problems as a country are great, and growing.

The rising up of a potential Article V Convention of the States should be met with gratitude—understanding that the amendment itself was seen as a ubiquitous “Break Glass In Case Of Emergency” clause. Some conservatives are leery about such a convention, thinking that all sorts of crazy, progressive amendments would be passed. This thinking is silly. Liberals already have every other branch of government and the bureaucracy locked down. A Convention of States would, instead, greatly benefit conservative ideas and Constitutional governance, which liberals generally eschew anyway.

The growing movement of Convention of the States has catalogued four major problems in government today: The Spending and Debt Crisis, The Regulatory Crisis, Congressional Attacks on State Sovereignty, and Federal Takeover of the Decision-Making Process. (See for more details.)

As conservatives, we can all agree that these four federal government abuses are vast and stubborn. So how does Article V help?

The goal of the Convention of States is to not throw a bunch of ideas up on the wall and see what sticks. The goal is to first define the broad problem: the federal government has greatly overreached its boundaries; the states are left practically impotent; and the American people—at least the ones funding the insanity—are left in the lurch. From the Convention of States website: “A convention of states needs to be called to ensure that we are able to debate and impose a complete package of restraints on the misuse of power by all branches of the federal government.”

Some detractors of the Article V process have claimed that this would be a “runaway Constitutional Convention.” In fact, it would not be. Since the first Constitutional Convention in 1789, over 400 calls have been made for Article V hearings, but not one has made it far. Why? Because either the amendments presented were unpopular or impractical, or not enough states joined in the process.

The purpose of today’s Convention of States is to grow a coalition of at least 40 states, with 4,000 Congressional districts represented. 100 citizen—and that’s key—CITIZEN—volunteers would be needed for each district in order to both hold state legislators accountable and provide support for legislators willing to take up this fight.  After close to 40 states and their representatives in the legislatures had signed up to participate in the Article V Convention, they would meet to debate exactly what amendments they would propose.

Some amendment ideas, from the COS website, include:

  • A balanced budget amendment
  • 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

All these amendments sound quite reasonable and would begin to curb an out-of-control federal government. Liberals and establishment Republicans won’t like them, since it removes power from a centralized government, but who cares? They’ve shown they have no self-control in the offices and institutions in which voters have entrusted them, so let’s try something different.

Some detractors of a Convention of States have also said we don’t need to go this route; we just need to elect conservatives to all levels of government. The last part is true, and more so than ever today. But that still will not curb spending, regulatory insanity, the debt, and deal with ensconced bureaucrats all too willing to sell the future of this country down the river for a temporary fix of a guaranteed job. No—our Founders knew this emergency button was necessary to reset the balance of power of our Republic, and place power back in the hands of citizens in the form of states and state legislatures.

Another objection to a Convention is the thinking that if the federal government won’t adhere to the Constitution now, why would they after a Convention of States? From the COS website, because I can’t say it any better:

“When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not anticipate modern-day politicians who take advantage of loopholes and vague phraseology. Even though it is obvious to all reasonable Americans that the federal government is violating the original meaning of the Constitution, Washington pretends otherwise, claiming the Constitution contains broad and flexible language. Amendments at a Convention of States today will be written with the current state of the federal government in mind.

The language they use for these amendments will be unequivocal. There will be no doubt as to their meaning, no possibility of alternate interpretations, and no way for them to be legitimately broken. For example, the General Welfare Clause could be amended to add this phrase: ‘If the States have the jurisdiction to spend money on a subject matter, Congress may not tax or spend for this same subject matter.’

In addition to this, it should be noted that the federal government has not violated the amendments passed in recent years. Women’s suffrage, for example, has been 100% upheld.”

Read more about those amendments HERE.

I urge anyone who is serious about this issue, either for or against, to visit the Convention of States website. Our Founding Fathers anticipated just this type of morass in which we currently find ourselves immersed. They have given us a simple and profound remedy: Article V.

Don’t worry, liberals and establishment Republicans: you’ll always have the vast majority of the media, most of Hollywood, and the Kardashians. The states can and must take back their rightful place in governance, and thank you James Madison for having the foresight to see what a mess these people would make of the most brilliant government system ever devised.

Angela Box

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