Convention of States

“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.” Article Five of the United States Constitution

An amendment to the Constitution can be initiated in two ways. Congress, upon the vote of two thirds of both houses can amend, or the States on the application of two thirds of the legislatures can force Congress to call a Convention of States to amend. The Convention of the States allows the States to assert its sovereignty over the government it created and the Constitution it approved. Any amendments proposed by Congress or the Convention must be ratified by three fours of the States to be adopted. There are three clauses of the Constitution shielded from amendment. Two of the clauses—one concerning importation of slaves and the other apportionment of direct taxes expired in 1808; the third without an expiration date prevented a state from being deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate”.

Every state except Hawaii has applied for an Article V Convention at one time or another. The Article Five Convention has never been used but there have been instances where the number of states applying for a convention fell just short. In response to increasing federal deficits, a movement in the 1970s by the states to impose fiscal discipline on the federal government petitioned Congress for a convention to write a balanced budget amendment. It fell just short with 32 of the required 34 states voting for such convention.

Currently, an effort is underway to call a Convention of States launched by Citizens for Self-Governance. As of March 2022, the resolution has passed in 19 states and has a real chance of getting the required 34 states. The Convention would hope to combat the use of the general welfare clause in the Constitution by the Federal Government to usurp powers to itself that were never granted by the Constitution and to “restore the federal government to its proper, limited place only by clarifying the original meaning of certain constitutional phrases through constitutional amendments—effectively overturning bad Supreme Court precedents that have eviscerated our federal system”. While this is a noble goal there is the possibility that a convention could produce less desirable amendments that could change parts of the Constitution that would not be wise to amend. In any event, a Convention of the States is one of the methods that the States have under the Constitution to assert its sovereignty and check a wayward Federal Government and Supreme Court.

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