|Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tex.,
one of the visionaries who's
totally in favor of a "Convention
of States" to rewrite the
Those three action areas may sound benign to you, but they aren't and the first two especially raise the small hairs on the back of my neck. Just the first of those three items -- "limiting the federal government's powers" -- could open a treasure chest of extreme rewrites, everything from doing away with the policing of environmental degradation (do powerful businesses really want all those regs on their activities?) to overturning marriage equality for gay couples. Commentators opposed to a new Constitutional Convention warn of a "runaway convention," since nothing like this has ever been done before, and there are no rules.
First, for background, here's the full text of Article V:
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.
"On the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states." In the current math of 50 total states, that means 34 can call for a new constitutional convention, and there are no set rules for who gets to be the delegates from the states, and how those delegates would be chosen (but you can bet your sweet bippy that in the case of North Carolina, Phil Berger and Tim Moore will be holding all the chits).
Here's where it gets a little more complicated: The resolution in the NC House calling for a new convention that passed in March is being pushed by a pressure group calling itself "The Convention of States Action" (COS). On their website, they claim that 13 states have signed on, with a number of others happily pending (like North Carolina, waiting for action in Phil Berger's Senate).
But there's another separate push for a constitutional convention, specifically (and only?) for the purpose of inserting a balanced budget amendment, that has gathered some 28 states as supporters, which would be (if my high school math hasn't completely failed me) just six short of the required 34. This movement is the work of a group called the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF), and its success has alarmed many progressive orgs like Common Cause. In a current fundraising appeal, Common Cause alleged this:
Now that the far-right has seen their agenda and their choice for president rejected by the American voters -- we anticipate a major escalation in their drive to rig the rules of our democracy to get their way.
You see, once an Article V Constitutional Convention is called, everything is on the table. Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Free speech. Everything.
Many constitutional experts have warned that this is the biggest present threat to our democracy -- and few Americans have even heard of it! But it’s happening as we speak, behind closed doors and out of the public eye.
You take a look at some of the characters cheering on these constitutional rewrites, and you're not reassured that their agenda isn't animated by Trumpist bullying "to get their way." On the COS "Endorsements" page, we see the likes of Ron DeSantis, Sean Hannity, Mark Meadows, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Dr. James Dobson, etc. Why, you might get the idea that they had ulterior motives.
The Article V Constitutional Convention came to my attention because a reader of this blog (thank you, SM) saw a small yardsign in Watauga County advocating a Convention of States for the express purpose of term-limits for members of Congress, which might garner slightly more support from the unsuspecting general public than some of the more open-ended policy goals.