Commentary

Convention of States: It’s Time for the States to Get in the Game

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By Ken Quinn – Since the start of our government under the Constitution on March 9, 1789, Congress has proposed over 11,500 amendments to the Constitution with only thirty-three of those being passed by the necessary two-thirds of both houses in order to be sent to the states for ratification. Only twenty-seven out of those thirty-three proposed amendments have been ratified by the states with the first ten (Bill of Rights) being ratified in 1791. History has demonstrated that the amending process of our Constitution has allowed our nation to make necessary corrections based upon the experience and demands of past generations. The majority of these amendments resolved the prevailing issues of their day and have served to make our nation better. There are a some, however, in my opinion (16th Income Tax & 17th Direct Election of Senators) that have been harmful to our Republic and have weakened the foundation of the Constitution and increased the power of the federal government beyond the original intentions of the Framers.

With the exception of the 22ndAmendment (Presidential Term Limits), the Bill of Rights are the only amendments that limit the power of the federal government and these were ratified only two years after the federal government began in 1789. Our nation has over two hundred years of experience living under this federal government and I would tend to believe that there may be a few adjustments that can be made via amendments to help restore it back to founding principles to preserve it for future generations.

Here is a snapshot of all 27 amendments that have been added to our Constitution. (provided by CRS Report for Congress)

1st Amendment Religion, speech, assembly 1791

2nd Amendment Bear arms 1791

3rd Amendment Quartering soldiers 1791

4th Amendment Searches and seizures 1791

5th Amendment Rights of persons 1791

6th Amendment Rights of accused 1791

7th Amendment Civil trials 1791

8th Amendment Punishment for crime 1791

9th Amendment Unenumerated rights 1791

10th Amendment Reserved powers 1791

11th Amendment Suits against states 1795

12th Amendment Election of Pres. & Vice Pres. 1804

13th Amendment Slavery 1865

14th Amendment Rights guaranteed 1868

15th Amendment Right to vote 1870

16th Amendment Income tax 1913

17th Amendment Popular election of Senators 1913

18th Amendment Prohibition 1919

19th Amendment Women’s suffrage 1920

20th Amendment Commencement of terms 1933

21st Amendment Repeal of prohibition 1933

22nd Amendment Presidential tenure 1951

23rd Amendment Pres. electors for D.C. 1961

24th Amendment Abolition of poll taxes 1964

25th Amendment Pres. vacancy, disability 1967

26th Amendment 18-year-old vote 1971

27th Amendment Congressional salaries 1992

All of theses amendments are enforced today with the exception of the 18th amendment (repealed by 21st amendment). However, there is tremendous pressure raging against amendments that were meant to protect our rights from an intrusive federal government such as the 1st, 2nd, & 4th amendments. As the federal government continues to grow out of control, we can expect more of this pressure to be exerted against these rights unless something is done very soon to stop this encroachment.

As I see it, many of our problems today stem from the fact that Congress and the States have equal constitutional authority according to Article V to propose amendments but only one of these is actually exercising that authority, Congress. If this was a ballgame the scoreboard would read Congress 11,539 vs. States 0.

Now, I am not suggesting that every amendment proposed by Congress is a bad amendment but if we believe Congress is the cause of many of our nation’s problems today, I don’t have a lot of faith that they are going to propose amendments that will fix those problems. Thankfully, there are some members that are trying to propose corrective measures through amendments to get Congress under control. But let’s be honest: do we really believe they will be successful in attaining the two-thirds majority needed in both houses to pass amendments that are designed to limit their terms in office, authority and or power?

We hear a lot today about the need for the states to push back against the federal government in our fight for freedom. If we really believe this, does it not make sense then to encourage our state legislatures to get in the game and exercise their constitutional authority to propose amendments that will restore the balance of power and reduce the reach of the federal government?

The good news is that there has been some effort in the past, but unfortunately it has not been enough. If we review the past 60 years we find that states have requested a convention to propose amendments for the following: Balanced Budget, Right to Life, Federal/National Debt Limit, Repealing the 16th Amendment (Income Tax), Selection and Tenure of Federal Judges, School Prayer, among others. The reason as to why Congress has never called an Article V convention is because there have never been an aggregate of the necessary two-thirds (34) of states applying for the same subject (although some scholars would dispute this claim.) A very interesting website that has done an excellent job of collating existing Article V applications is the Article V Library. Due to the difficulty in researching this topic this site attempts to maintain a complete and public index of all state Article V applications and related documents. I encourage you to visit the Article V Library to view the history of many of the applications that have been submitted by the states.

Now for just a minute let’s imagine where our country would be today if thirty years ago a convention was called and the following three amendments were passed and ratified by the states; Balanced Budget, Federal & National Debt Limit and Repealing the 16th Amendment. Would we be better off as a nation if these amendments were made the Law of the Land? Do you believe Congress will ever propose these three amendments? Of course they won’t. That is why we must not continue doing the same thing election after election expecting different results. Congress is not the solution to our problem, Congress is our problem (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan). The real solution to our problems is for We The People to demand that our state representatives apply for an Article V convention and answer their call of duty in such an hour as this as stated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 85;

We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”

This is why our slogan for the Convention of States Project is “We Have a Solution as Big as the Problem.” Our goal is to hold a convention of states for proposing amendments for more than a single item such as a Balanced Budget. Our application allows amendments to be proposed that fall under a much broader scope that will “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.” The time has come for the states to start flexing their constitutional muscle. It’s time for a Convention of States. Join us at www.conventionofstates.com

 

 

About Ken Quinn

Ken Quinn is the State Director for the Convention of States Project in Maine. This column is part of a series that will explore the Convention of States. For more information or to volunteer, please visit www.conventionofstates.com.

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