DO WE NEED A CONVENTION OF STATES? by Lenawee 9.12 Forum Steering Committee (SC) (Bold-face font supplied by the SC)
Having done extensive research on an Article V convention (defined below) to amend the United States Constitution, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot support such a convention. There is much more involved than just "amending" the Constitution: • Over the years numerous (400-600+) amendments have been proposed on a wide variety of topics; • Of those amendments, Congress has adopted, and the states have ratified, 27; • All of the adopted amendments, though perhaps recommended by the States, were proposed by Congress, not proposed through applications by the Statesto Congress to convene an Article V convention; • The only time a convention of state delegates previously was used occurred when our current Constitution was written. The attending state delegates ignored their instructions from the Congress convened under the Articles of Confederation, and, instead, produced an entirely new document to guide our government. For this reason, the Nation deliberately has avoided a subsequent convention of state delegates; • From “Exposing the Convention of the States (COS) as an Article V Constitutional Convention”--“[The] reason why we must NOT promote an Article V Amendment Convention: There is no provision in Article V empowering state legislators to choose the delegates to a Constitutional Convention or to “limit” the scope of a Con-Con. There are no rules, no regulations or instructions, and once a Convention is underway, the delegates answer to NOBODY!”; • There are two sides to the question of calling an Article V convention: those who hold that the Constitution gives all authority over such a convention to Congress, and those who say that Article V gives all authority to the States.
It has become clear to us that the last-mentioned point arises because of a basic, philosophical question regarding the understanding of the Constitution: trusting the written words as stated by our Founding Fathers, or reading into the document what is convenient for one's purpose. We believe that the Constitution already provides solutions to the many, current complaints about our federal government; but the three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) are not holding themselves or each other to their constitutionally identified duties, authorities, or limitations. An amended, or even entirely new, Constitution will not solve our problems. As long as so many of our governmental officials regard it as just words, they will continue to ignore any resulting document, as they do today. Even worse, we may end up with a federal government such as we would not want to have jurisdiction over us.
The following information is provided to help you educate yourself on this important issue, which we believe to be even more important than who does or doesn't hold any particular federal office. Please make time to read it, and decide for yourself whether an Article V convention is the right course to follow. It will determine the future of our Nation and our children. ********** A convention of states (COS), a.k.a. an Article V Convention (ACV) or constitutional convention (ConCon), refers to a convention called by Congress, for the purpose of amending the Constitution, under Article V of the United States Constitution, quoted here:
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.
Black’s Law Dictionary, from its Preface (1990), “is the standard authority for legal definitions since 1891.” Its online version defines a constitutional convention as “A duly constituted assembly of delegates or representatives of the people of a state or nation for the purpose of framing, revising, or amending its constitution….Example: Delegates to the constitutional convention convened in 1787 quickly dispensed with any thoughts of retaining the Articles of Confederation and turned, instead, to the creation of a new Constitution.”
Since the time of President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), progressives have been seeking means, other than through congressionally initiated amendments, that would give them the greatest possible influence over amending the Constitution. Conservatives, recognizing the perils of an AVC, have always prevailed over those progressive attempts. Since 2007, and throughout the Obama Administration, there has been much discussion among both conservatives and progressives regarding the “dire” necessity of the States to petition Congress for such a convention. Conservatives seek an AVC in order to restore our federal government to its originally established, limited responsibilities and, in some cases, incorporate additional limitations; while progressives seek to change the Constitution to suit their agenda. Such well-known conservative individuals as Mark Levin and now-deceased Phyllis Schlafley have entirely opposite viewpoints concerning the desirability of a COS. Believing that our existing Constitution provides every necessary means of keeping government in check, Mrs. Schlafley’s organization Eagle Forum stands with Campaign for Liberty, Citizens Against an Article V Convention, Oath Keepers, the John Birch Society, and other conservative organizations in opposing a COS; even as the Convention of States Project (COPS), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), Texas Public Policy Foundation, Moveon.Org (click here and here), Move to Amend, and a number of progressive organizations support one, confident that they will be able to make the rules of the convention and control its scope and outcome, including the method and requirements of ratification.
Mark Meckler, formerly of Tea Party Patriots and co-author with Jenny Beth Martin of The Second American Revolution, has changed sides on the debate and now supports a COS. Be sure to read “Mark Meckler Finds Common Ground with Strange Bedfellows” by Orleans Koehle. This article, from Eagle Forum, addresses the concerns of those who oppose exposing our Constitution to amendment through the convention-of-states (COS) process. Mrs. Schlafley remained steadfastly against a COS throughout her long life.
The bold-font portion of Article V (above) is the point of contention between the opposing groups. Such a convention never has been held; and there is extensive uncertainty about who has authority to make the rules for it, how they would be enforced, and the scope of any called convention; i.e., would it be limited to identified items or be able to address the entire U.S. Constitution, thus becoming a run-away convention? From Eagle Forum, “Here are a few things we DON'T know about an Article V convention”: “• How will delegates be selected? “• What constitutes a quorum? “• Does action require support from a majority of ALL the delegates or just those PRESENT for the vote? “• Will the votes be recorded? “• Will there be a record of debates? “• Will the convention be open to the public and media?”
In 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution V, which sought an AVC for the purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it remains in effect today. The Convention of States Project hosted a simulated Article V Convention in Williamsburg, Virginia on September 21-23, 2016, in which Michigan Representative Lee Chatfield participated. On September 12, 2017, Representative Chatfield sponsored House Joint Resolution V for the purpose of “applying to the Congress of the United States to call a convention to propose an amendment to the constitution of the United States to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress.” This is the same amendment put forth by The Convention of States Project (COPS), and is far more extensive in scope than the 2014 amendment proposed by Michigan and many other states. HJR V was reported out of the House Committee on Government Operations on September 13, 2017, “with recommendation,” and was “referred for a second reading.”
The Convention of States Project states that, in 1979, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was fully supportive of a COS. However, on April 17, 2014, on The Kalb Report (starts at 1:06:02), Justice Scalia stated that he “would not want a constitutional convention”. “More recently, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the May 2015 New Jersey Law Journal, called it a ‘horrible idea’ to hold a constitutional convention in the age of special interests. ‘You’ll get everything but the kitchen sink written into the Constitution.’ ” (ConCon/Article V, right column). Obviously, he changed his opinion, though that is not acknowledged by the Convention of States Project.
Several states that previously approved a COS Resolution have, since, rescinded their approval (Delaware, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, etc.--ConCon/Article V, see "Rescissions").
On November 2, 1788, James Madison wrote a letter to George Turberville in which he stated: "You wish to know my sentiments on the project of another general Convention as suggested by New York. I shall give them to you with great frankness. … 3. If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partizans on both sides; it wd. probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already too much heated men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all these circumstances it seems scarcely to be presumeable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good. Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America, and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned. . . .I am Dr. Sir, Yours Js. Madison Jr”
It is difficult to determine which side of the issue deserves one's support unless one discovers what different groups espouse, who their leaders and supporters are, and what other organizations they work with. Even having done that, in addition to the questions initially posed above (paragraph 9 of this document), many other questions remain unanswered. See “TWENTY QUESTIONS ABOUT A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION”. And, finally, why should we change our excellent Constitution when it already provides us the means of correcting mis-applications of federal authority, though every branch of the federal government already ignores it as much as possible?
The solution is to educate ourselves about our national history and our Founding Documents so that we all will be enabled to vote intelligently and change the people we elect or appoint to fill public offices; i.e., by electing moral individuals who know and understand the Constitution and who are willing to uphold their oath of office to defend it and operate under it.
"On July 12, 2016, the Republican platform committee resoundingly rejected a call for an Article V convention, for many good reasons as stated by conservative delegates during a televised session." (TOP 10 REASONS AGAINST AN ARTICLE V CONVENTION)
Currently, 28 states have submitted amendment proposals calling for a balanced budget amendment. Independently, it is the goal of COPS to meet the requirement of 2/3 of the states (34) petitioning Congress by July 4, 2018 (as of late 2017, ten states had passed the COPS resolution—see Progress Map). So, no doubt, there will be a big push among Michigan supporters to approve HJR V by then. Should Michigan be among applicants for an AVC?
Now, knowing of progressive ties to the Article V Convention effort and the fact that there are so many highly regarded conservatives on both sides of this issue who cannot agree on many significant questions regarding an Article V convention, we cannot support proceeding with one. To do so would be to open Pandora's box and unleash unknown influences and issues that could turn our federal government into something never considered by our Founding Fathers.
What can you do? Study the information provided here, and if you agree with us, ask your state legislator to oppose HJR V, and, if he is a co-sponsor (Chatfield, Noble, Canfield, Johnson, Kahle, Webber, Howell, Iden, Sheppard, Alexander, Kesto, Yaroch, Allor, Kelly, Hoitenga, Cole, Lauwers and Lower), to withdraw his co-sponsorship. Also, ask him to initiate legislation that would rescind the 2014 SJR V and all other Michigan resolutions that seek an Article V Convention for whatever reason.
We should not proceed to support an Article V convention when there are so many uncertainties.