As our nation continues to depart from its founding principles, conservatives are desperately searching for strategies to re-establish the checks and balances designed to prevent government tyranny. As specific problems are identified, solutions are proposed. If professional politicians are the problem, term limits will get rid of them. If government spending is the problem, a balanced budget is the answer. If government overreach is the problem, defund and close government agencies. If moral decay is the issue, legislate against it.
The Convention of States (COS) agenda promises to resolve all these problems. Their plan is to invoke Article V of the Constitution in which thirty-four states can petition Congress to call a “convention of states” to propose constitutional amendments. They contend that each state delegation is restricted to proposing only amendments specified in the state’s petition. Common suggested amendments are Congressional Term Limits and a Balanced Budget Amendment. COS proponents claim that the states will control all aspects of the convention and any amendments proposed would still have to be ratified by ¾ of the states to become part of the Constitution. They claim the process is legal, constitutional, and a perfectly foolproof and safe way to reestablish constitutional rule.
I vehemently disagree. The Article V Convention of States is a Trojan Horse.
Article V of the Constitution is a 143-word run-on sentence that should make English teachers gasp and cringe. An English teacher so appalled, however, would probably have taught the class how to parse a sentence to understand who does what to whom. To parse a sentence one must find the subject, verb, and object of the sentence and temporarily put all the rest aside.
Here is the full text of Article V of the US Constitution with highlights for further discussion:
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.
The simple declarative sentence reads as follows:
The Congress shall propose amendments to this Constitution or shall call a convention for proposing amendments.
Congress, it appears, can take one of two actions with certain triggers:
- Congress Shall Propose Amendments itself
Trigger: 2/3 of both houses deem it necessary
- Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments
Trigger: Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several states; i.e. 34 states
Option 2 is what the COS folks are talking about. Based just on this part of Article V, here are the obvious sources of risk:
“Congress shall call a convention”
- call a Convention – not call a Convention of States
- “Congress shall call a convention” means that congress calls the convention, determines the agenda, chooses the delegates, and defines the rules of the convention
Article V also specifies the ratification process which contains additional obvious risks. Amendments become part of the 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”. Once again, Congress controls the ratification process.
The COS promoters claim that the process is safe as the states would control the entire process including making the rules, choosing delegates, and creating the convention agenda. They also claim that the rules could not be changed by the convention itself once it is underway. History proves them wrong.
Contrary to the COS narrative, our Constitution was written by a “runaway” convention, even though it turned out well. After the War of Independence, our country was governed by the Articles of Confederation, which created a central government that was too weak to enforce unified action even when essential. To remedy those deficiencies, a convention was called with only one specific purpose – to amend the Articles of Confederation. According to rules, amending the Articles required ratification of any changes by all thirteen states.
The convention convened in Philadelphia, but delegations from only twelve states were present. Rhode Island refused to attend. Disregarding the rules, the delegates decided to discard the Articles of Confederation entirely and write a new Constitution. Instead of requiring agreement by all thirteen states, the new Constitution became law of the land when ratified by only nine of the thirteen states.
The convention that created our Constitution defied and broke every rule under which it was called. It discarded the Articles of Confederation entirely instead of just amending it and changed the ratification requirements from all thirteen states to just nine. By definition, that was a runaway convention.
Commentary by Phyllis Schlafly on the Article V ConCon
Whether you call it a “Convention of States,” a “Constitutional Convention,” or a “ConCon,” the outcome is the same. It would open up our beloved founding document to attack from all kinds of special interest groups with intentions far less noble than the Founding Fathers.
Here are three concrete reasons Phyllis Schlafly opposed an Article V convention:
- Congress has ultimate control over the process. The Congressional Research Service confirms that Congress will call the convention, determine the agenda, choose the delegates, and define the rules of the convention.
- Activist judges will control the outcome of a convention. The American Bar Association acknowledged that a convention under Article V, like every other part of our Constitution, will be subject to judicial review. With just one lawsuit filed by either liberals or conservatives, this would give unelected judges the chance to control the actual wording of the Constitution through judicial fiat.
- The Constitution is not the problem. Everyone acknowledges that the real problem with our federal government is not the powers given to it by the Constitution, but the powers the government has usurped outside the bounds placed on it by the Constitution. Why would anyone think that the federal government will suddenly start obeying the rules when we write more of them?
Many other notable constitutional scholars agreed with her. Chief Justice Warren Burger said, “A Constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all for special interest groups, television coverage, and press speculation.”
Justice Antonin Scalia avidly opposed an Article V convention. He called it a “horrible idea.”
Even current proponents of an Article V ConCon like Mark Meckler admit that having one convention will open the door to many more. “There is no way to prevent the cycle [of multiple conventions] from happening because the cycle of it is the cycle of human nature.”
The Convention of States agenda is an organized attack on the Constitution. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, enlisting the support of conservatives by promising that a Convention of States will give us the tools we need to re-establish our constitutional republic.
In reality, the Constitution of States program is a dangerous tool that uses our patriotic hearts and desires to bring the fox into the henhouse.
Suddenly, this has become a critically important issue for citizens of North Carolina. In our state, the Republicans in the state House of Representatives voted to call for a Convention of States. The Senate has not voted yet, but they could in the short session that starts after the primary on May 17.
It is time to actively call your senators in Raleigh and urge them to vote against the COS resolution and explain why that is so important.
Resist Tyranny and Trust in Freedom!