Confronted with a federal government that has overstepped its Constitutional limits, and spurred on by a growing grassroots network, several state governments are now considering whether to utilize a provision in the Constitution that could change how D.C. operates.
President Eisenhower said that states should use it to achieve Congressional term limits, while President Reagan vigorously supported it in an unsuccessful effort to add a Balanced Budget provision to the Constitution. Milton Friedman once said, “It is the one device that can effectively bypass the Washington bureaucracy.”
In Article V of the Constitution, the Framers outlined two methods to propose constitutional amendments. The first method is the only one that has ever been used, via Congress, but there is another way—a convention of states, which can be called if two-thirds (34) of the states pass resolutions.
Recognizing that Washington is incapable of fixing itself, state legislators in no less than nine states have already filed Article V resolutions that will be voted on sometime this year. Convention of States Project, the primary organizer of this effort, estimates that at least twenty states will file an application this year alone.
This movement may be in its infancy, but it’s off to a fast start. Last week the Georgia Senate became the first legislative body to pass the resolution, by a vote of 37-17. If Georgia’s House of Representatives follows suit, the Peach State will be the first to officially submit an application for an Article V Amendments Convention.
Virginia’s House of Delegates will soon vote on their own resolution. Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, South Dakota, and South Carolina will also decide on this effort, and the movement is gaining momentum across America.
Nearly 100 state legislators from 32 states met in December to discuss the process of crafting rules for an Article V Convention.
“Their feeling is not if this will happen, but when,” said one attendee. Many were encouraged by the bipartisan emphasis of the meeting, and they made plans to meet again in May.
With organizational leadership in 41 states, not to mention 10,000 citizen volunteers and counting, Convention of States Project is confident that an Article V Amendments Convention can occur as early as 2016.
So far the most popular items among state legislators include a Balanced Budget Amendment, Congressional term limits, as well as ideas that could curb the federal bureaucracy and restore the federal government to the modest structure that the Framers envisioned.
In addition to grassroots efforts, the movement has also drawn support from national figures. Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and Rand Paul have all independently expressed their approval. Sen. Tom Coburn announced recently that he will be retiring to focus his efforts on promoting a Convention of States.
Governors who have announced their support include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. An Article V Convention of the States has also garnered the endorsements of Conservative figures like Cal Thomas, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, David Limbaugh, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and many more.
Mark Levin, a senior adviser in the Reagan Administration, has been credited by several state legislators with jump-starting this movement thanks to his recent #1 New York Times bestseller The Liberty Amendments. In his book Levin makes the case for an Article V Amendments Convention as well as 11 specific amendments that would restore power to the states and to the American people, including proposals that would grant the states authority to check the Supreme Court, Congress, and the bureaucracy.
The Framers were clear that this Constitutional provision would be the method by which states could address the overreach of a federal government. According to James Madison’s notes, Col. George Mason, one of Virginia’s delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, was one of the leading advocates for this provision, arguing it was necessary for the states to have recourse “if the Government should become oppressive.”
In Federalist 85 Alexander Hamilton writes extensively about Article V, stating flatly: “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”
Likewise, in Federalist 43, James Madison wrote: “Should the provisions of the Constitution…be found not to secure the government and rights of the states, against usurpation and abuses on the part of the United States, the final resort within the purview of the Constitution, lies in an amendment of the Constitution, according to a process applicable by the states.”
It seems that the Framers anticipated the rise of an overreaching federal government in America, and so they constructed Article V as recourse, a powerful weapon with which the states can fight back. This strategy combines the spirit of the Constitution with the authority of the states.
With an Article V Convention of States, Americans can bring real change to Washington, break up the ruling class, restore fiscal sanity to the federal government, and reestablish the liberating Constitutional structure that the Framers envisioned.
Follow Garrett Humbertson on Twitter at @G_Humbertson.