Constitution

Letter | Don’t fear Article V option for Constitutional amendment

May 13, 2014 

Re: April 27 letter from George Edwards, “Options underway to amend U.S. Constitution”

I am currently the deputy state director in South Carolina for an organization called

IAmAmerican.org. I feel obligated to allay some of the fears people have of an Article V Convention that Mr. Edwards pointed out.

IAmAmerican.org is a nationwide grassroots movement pushing for a Convention of the States to propose a balanced budget amendment. Thirty-four state legislatures are needed to call the convention. This brings me to my first point.

As of now, we have 23 of 34 state legislatures that have passed a single item resolution calling for a balanced budget amendment. We expect to have that number jump to 26 by summer. Indeed, there are other COS resolutions in certain legislatures with multiple items, but they are all very unlikely to go anywhere.

We had one here in our own legislature that had zero momentum. Then, Sen. Larry Grooms introduced a single item BBA resolution and immediately had more co-sponsors than the multi-item bill.

It’s critical to understand how an Article V Convention called by the states truly works. First, when the magic number of 34 is reached, the Congress must call the convention. Their only obligation is to set a time and place. After that, they have zero say in what happens.

Second, the convention’s purpose is simply to propose amendments. Absolutely nothing is final until 38 of the 50 state legislatures ratify it.

What if a representative from a certain state attempts to propose some radical amendment not related to a balanced budget (or whatever the specified agenda is)? If this happens, that person’s respective legislature has the authority to call them back, replace them with another representative, and even bring them up on legal charges if they so choose. So, what if that state’s legislature does not recall that person? Let’s say somebody proposes an amendment banning all long guns. Or, let’s say another person proposes an amendment curtailing our rights of free speech, religion, assembly, etc.

Given the fact that 38 state legislatures are needed to ratify any proposed amendments, and that right now the legislatures are virtually split down the middle as far as majority Republican, majority Democrat, it’s almost impossible for radical propositions such as these to be ratified.

There are also fears that the Constitution itself could be re-written in this whole process. I believe my previous points have proven that simply can’t happen, but there are a couple of other points to make. First, a Convention of the States is not the same as a Constitutional Convention. Again, its only purpose is to propose amendment(s). The language in Article V does not allow states to later call for an open convention. There has never in U.S. history been a runaway convention. Twelve have been called; zero have run away. Some argue the Convention in 1787 ran away. This is simply not true. At that time, we had the Articles of Confederation. The Articles authorized the alterations that were made to establish an effective national government. The convention did not run away.

There are many checks in place on an Article V Convention. It’s better to think of it more as an interstate task force than some vehicle to stage a government takeover. Let’s remember something: Our nation is over $17 trillion in debt and that’s only what’s on the books. Proposing an amendment requiring our government to balance its checkbook is something many of us can agree on regardless of political ideology. I know that Mr. Edwards, myself, and a large number of readers agree that the Constitution is an ingenious document. Our Founders wouldn’t have left us Article V as a tool if they didn’t think we’d have to use it eventually, or if they thought it’d lead us to ruin.

The Supreme Court is now in the habit of interpreting the Constitution as a “living document.” Is that not almost the same as the much feared aforementioned Constitutional Convention? If you want to curtail DC’s power, you go after their pocketbook. It’s now up to us to do just that because they sure aren’t going to.

The writer lives in North Myrtle Beach.

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