There is a nationwide push for a Constitutional Convention in America today (also called a “Convention of the States” or an “Article V Convention”) and it is being sold to the public as the “silver bullet” that will solve America’s problems. Conservative proponents say a Con-Con will reign in Congress and balance the budget. There are many significant points to consider before supporting this drastic measure, however. First, there has not been a Con-Con since the Convention of 1787 that founded America as a Constitutional Republic. Some proponents of the Con-Con claim there have been multiple conventions throughout America’s history. The truth is, this tool found in Article V has never been used, and for good reason. Let’s take a look at Article V.
What Article V Really Says
“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 thereof, as one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress: Provided…that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”
That’s it! Article V does not authorize the states to do anything but submit applications to Congress for a convention. Who calls the convention (and thereby sets the time, place, and rules, chooses delegate selection, etc.)? Congress! Yet proponents often claim that the states will be able to control the convention. Once the convention is called, it is completely out of the states’ control.
Could A Convention Be Limited To A Single Topic?
Article V says “Congress…shall call a convention for proposing amendments”, while proponents (particularly Balanced Budget Amendment advocates) insist such a convention may be limited to a single topic. On such a serious subject it is very dangerous to imagine regulations and safeguards in Article V that simply aren’t there. Will the delegates view themselves as bound to a single topic alone when no such restriction can be found in the Constitution? Hardly.
Once a convention is called, there is no limit to what they might do. Here’s a frightening thought: consider how power-hungry politicians would love to see our Constitution replaced with a document that would allow them to do whatever they wished. This would be the most likely scenario played out should a Con-Con be called.
Balanced Budget Amendment
Conservatives who are in favor of a Con-Con generally support what is commonly called a “Balanced Budget Amendment” (BBA). Advocates fail to realize how absurd it is that Congress, who is not following our current Constitution, would not be any more inclined to follow a stricter budget amendment.
There is a way we can balance the budget. Simply require Congress to obey the Constitution! If the U.S. government followed the Constitution they all swore oaths to obey, according to Mr. Chris Stevens, “The government would be 20% its size, 20% its cost, and it would solve 80% of our problems.”
Even calling a convention for the purpose of writing an amendment that sounds good, such as the BBA, would still inevitably bring with it the problem of a runaway convention.
Ratification—the last protective measure in case anything bad does come out of a convention—¾ of the states still have to ratify it…and ¾ of the states would never ratify anything bad, say proponents. Whew! But wait…three-fourths of the states have ratified bad amendments before (ie., 16th & 17th Amendments). They cannot and should not be our last defense against bad amendments that could come out of a Con-Con.
There is another reason the state legislatures can’t be a last resort. The convention can change the rules for ratification in an effort to make it easier for their new Constitution to be adopted.
In fact, changing ratification rules are the precedent. In 1787 at the Constitutional Convention they changed the rules for ratification from the previously required unanimity to requiring ¾ of the states to ratify the new Constitution.
Does Article V forbid a Constitutional Convention from changing ratification rules? No. And this possibility, made even more likely by the precedent, makes a convention even more dangerous.
The Real Solution
The only thing that could come out of a Constitutional Convention would be a changed—or even completely rewritten—governing document. This is most certainly not the “silver bullet” to solve the many problems facing our nation today. There is, in fact, no “silver bullet”, although human nature tends to search for the easy way out of things. Restoring our Republic will take much time and effort in educating ourselves as well as our friends and neighbors. Yet this is where the solution lies…We the People.
Didn’t our Founding Fathers already write a document that has served our Republic well through the years (especially when it was followed)? We do not need to rewrite the Constitution, we need to enforce the Constitution.
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