By Simon Davis-Cohen
A billionaire-backed “movement” is dangerously close to calling a constitutional convention of states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. If realized, it would be the first constitutional convention since the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution.
After an active start to 2017, proponents are now allegedly seven states away from reaching the needed 34 states (two-thirds) to convene a convention. According to Article V, which lays out all the ways the constitution can be amended, any amendments proposed by the convention would then need to be ratified by 38 (three-fourths) of the states.
Analysis of email blasts from proponents and a new op-ed shows that an emboldened group of paid pro-convention campaigners are advocating for a convention to go far beyond its professed purpose of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). Their proposals include the creation of a national identification card.
A ‘run-away’ convention
Apart from the harm a BBA could inflict on the economy and the nation’s economic sovereignty, there are real fears that a BBA convention could “run away,” and open up the constitution to much more drastic changes. There is nothing to guard against a convention being hijacked by special interests, prompting progressive groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Common Cause, as well as pro-convention groups like the Compact for America to warn of the dangers of a runaway convention.
One group called the Convention of States (COS) advocates a convention to broadly restrict the fiscal powers and jurisdiction of the federal government, as well as to introduce federal term limits. COS has passed 12 resolutions.
In an email sent to supporters, Mark Meckler, a professional Tea Party campaigner for COS, said, “when we succeed in getting 34 states to pass our legislation, a convention will be called where the states can propose amendments to…
- Get the federal government out of our healthcare system.
- Impose term limits on Congress.
- Balance the budget.
- Mandate nationwide voter ID.
- Take back our education systems.
- Limit federal power.”
Whether Convention of States hopes to itself get to 34 states, or if its strategy is to co-opt and expand a BBA convention is unclear. However, according to Jay Riestenberg of Common Cause, which tracks the movement closely, Convention of States lobbied hard to defend Nevada’s BBA resolution, which was rescinded earlier this year—indicating its strategy aligns with the BBA effort.
In a similar vein, former Alaska state senator and BBA advocate Fritz Pettyjohn said in an op-ed reposted on ALEC’s website in April that a “Article V Convention could…propose any number of solutions. One would be to dissolve Congress and elect a new one. When you’re the sovereign, you can do that.”
Once the convention is called, all bets are of off …