It’s looking like there’s a lot of momentum building for something we have all wanted for a long time now, a constitutional convention.
For those unfamiliar, a constitutional convention is where the states join together and convene in order to make changes to the Constitution, without the consent of the federal government. It’s a part of Article V of the Constitution which gives us two ways in which to amend it.
The first, and only method ever used, requires two-third of the House and the Senate to approve an amendment prior to sending it off to the states to be ratified.
Fortunately for us, the founding fathers were clever enough to give the people a way to reign in an out of control government by allowing two thirds of the states to be able to convene without the federal government.
Recently, people have really been backing the idea since it seems that the federal government has gone far beyond the scope laid out in the Constitution because of loose interpretations of the wording within it. However it’s not as far off as we all may think, and we can thank the good people of Michigan for it.
A little over a week ago, Michigan lawmakers endorsed the idea of the convention and jumped on board with the idea, which means that we’ve reached the threshold of 34 states, or two-thirds, demanding Congress call for the convention.
Michigan’s vote has caused lawmakers from around the nation to start to pressure Speaker John Boehner to make the call and convene the states.
California Rep. Duncan Hunter was one of those lawmakers who pushed the speaker. His interest in the matter comes from his desire to have a balanced-budget amendment added to the Constitution.
“Based on several reports and opinions, Michigan might be the 34th state to issue such a call and therefore presents the constitutionally-required number of states to begin the process of achieving a balanced budget amendment,” Hunter wrote.
“With the recent decision by Michigan lawmakers, it is important that the House – and those of us who support a balanced budget amendment — determine whether the necessary number of states have acted and the appropriate role of Congress should this be the case.”
As with anything else, there isn’t a consensus as to whether or not two-thirds of the states have actually applied since some have drafted such resolutions and retracted them and others drafted them some time ago.
The problem is that Article V is vague in its actual description of how this should happen. With that said, there’s debate on whether or not the threshold has actually been met, or if there’s still a number of states that need to get on board with the idea.
There are constitutional scholars out there who say that once a resolution is approved, the states can’t rescind their request, but others say that there’s a time limit.
Gregory Watson, who’s a constitutional analyst from Texas says that once the request is sent, it’s permanent.
“There is a disagreement among scholars as to whether a state that has approved an application may later rescind that application,” Watson said in an interview. “If it is ultimately adjudicated that a state may not rescind a prior application, then Ohio’s 2013 application for a Balanced Budget Amendment convention would be the 33rd and Michigan’s 2014 application would be the 34th on that topic.”
Then there’s people who say that once a state changes its mind, they have to again pass a resolution in order to send their request.
The other problem they face is that once a convention is convened, nobody knows how it would work since it’s never happened before. Nobody knows if it would be limited to just one amendment being discussed or if each state could bring their own ideas to the table to be voted on, so that remains to be determined.
The other problem that’s faced is that the establishment politicians who don’t want to disrupt their own power may not ever allow such a convention to take place since doing so could change everything we know about the government. By rule of the Constitution, the states could theoretically dismantle the federal government and start from scratch which would mean that those in office now might never see Washington again.
There’s also analysts who warn that such a move may have unintended consequences.
A Budget Policy Analyst from Louisiana by the name of Steve Spire thinks that a convention could permanently damage the political system in America, but he also didn’t say whether or not he’s a fan of the current status quo so maybe the damage he’s talking about could be a good thing?
Regardless, it will be interesting to see where this all goes. Legally, we the people have a right to use the authority granted to us in the Constitution to convene for such a convention and make the changes that we feel appropriate. Whether or not those in the federal government will allow it to happen remains to be seen, but we can keep pushing for it.