"Pedal-to-the-metal" on a Convention of States
George Henry Edwards
Those who oppose a Convention of States for fear it could become an out-of-control convention may have not looked into its constraints in sufficient detail. As it is, we have an out of control federal government. We should use the constitutional provisions for a convention proposing amendments to bring an out-of-control federal government back into the control of the states and the people.
You might consider Thomas Jefferson’s words: 'Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.' --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. 'Let us go on perfecting the Constitution by adding, by way of amendment, those forms which time and trial show are still wanting.' --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas, 1803.]
A growing number of state legislatures are approving a common wording [See note 1] requiring congress to "call a Convention for proposing amendments." The 2013 Convention of States [COS] wording limits the convention delegates to proposing constitutional amendments that further limit the power of the federal government.
The power for state legislatures to require congress to call such a convention is provided in Article V. of the constitution.
Article V. further provides that only one delegate per state is allowed in such a convention and that the amendments that such a convention proposes shall 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 may be proposed by congress.”
The selection by congress providing for the states to ratify by state conventions or by the legislatures directly is the only power the constitution allows the federal government in the amendment process.
As in all other cases, Amendment X. of the constitution provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited to the State, are reserved to the state respectively, or to the people.”
Therefore, the states and the people, not the federal government, have the sole power to select and retain the delegates to a convention of states.
If the delegate of a state proposes an amendment other than those it is chartered to do [in the present case, an amendment other than to further limit the power of the federal government] that state legislature has the power to call such a delegate back, replace him or her with another delegate or even bring the delegate up on legal charges.
If congress has selected the mode of state ratification to be by the legislature directly, none of these further legislature powers are needed.
If congress has selected the mode of state ratification to be by individual state conventions, the elected state legislatures still hold the power that each individual state law provides. Should that power be inadequate for a legislature’s control or a state legislature fails to act in enforcing the amendment constraints, three fourth of the states still must approve any such amendment. In such an extremely unlikely event, any such amendment could still be struck down in court.
It is evident that the possibility of amendments being added to the constitution by the convention of states approach other than those abiding by the originally proposed constraints are extremely, if not overwhelmingly, unlikely.
On the other hand, it is assuredly overwhelmingly unlikely that the already out-of-control federal government will impose additional limitations on its own powers.
Given all this, the convention of states approach is the only constitutional way to assuredly rein in the federal government. The alternative is to slavishly accept tyranny.
There should not be any hesitation but for all citizens to put their “pedal to the metal” in persuading their elected state legislators to require congress to, in the constitution’s words, “call a convention for proposing amendments.”
Note 1. The operative common wording for the 2013 COS application is: “The legislature of the State of ______ hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”