Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who’s Afraid of an Article V Amendments Convention?

Every so often talk arises about holding an Article V Amendments convention amongst the states to amend the Constitution, since Congress has become increasingly unaccountable. In reaction, dire warnings spring up declaring that a “constitutional convention,” or “con con,” could result in a runaway convention where radical changes are made that fundamentally rewrite our Constitution. Are the doomsday warnings legitimate, or simply scare tactics to block desperately needed reforms?
Legislation is currently being considered in most state legislatures that would begin the process of adopting a National Debt Relief Amendment. Once ratified, it would prohibit Congress from increasing the federal debt unless a simple majority of the states approve. So far, North Dakota and Louisiana have passed the initial legislation with bipartisan support in both chambers of their state legislatures. Ultimately, 38 states will need to ratify the amendment. The language of the proposed amendment is very simple, “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate states.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution lays out the process by which amendments are added to the Constitution. Amendments may be proposed by either the states or Congress. Throughout America’s history, amendments have only been proposed by Congress. If proposed by the states, an amendment must then be ratified by three-quarters of the states or by conventions within the states. It is the initial convention called for by the states to propose amendments that naysayers, including some on the right oddly enough, claim may cause dangerous changes to the Constitution, even though it has never happened before.
The Founding Fathers rejected initial drafts of Article V that would have permitted open-ended conventions, and instead adopted very narrow, precise requirements. They rejected language four times that would have provided the mechanism for a full constitutional convention. In Federalist No. 85, Alexander Hamilton explained that states did not need to call for a full constitutional convention since Article V provides full power to amend the Constitution. James Madison specifically supported the use of Article V in Federalist No. 43. Accusations that an Article V Amendments convention will result in a full-blown “constitutional convention” or “con-con” are not correct. There is no such thing as a constitutional convention – it can be found nowhere in the Constitution.

Read the rest of the article at Townhall

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