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A concise, powerful refutation of the "runaway convention" objection

Published in Blog on November 12, 2018 by Article V Patriot

Prof. Rob Natelson is, without question, the nation's leading scholar on an Article V Amendments Convention.

He recently published a concise, powerful refutation of the most common objection to the Convention of States option: the "runaway convention" scenario. 

In that scenario, as Natelson explains, "any convention for proposing amendments would be a 'constitutional convention' in which the delegates disregard limits on their authority and push America further along the road to perdition."

The problem with this fantasy is that it simply can't happen. There are "redundant protections against a runaway convention for proposing amendments," such as,

  • political factors: the damage that disregard of clear limits can do to a commissioner’s reputation;
  • popular opinion;
  • state applications defining the scope;
  • the limit on the scope of the call;
  • the potential for lawsuits to enforce the foregoing;
  • state instruction of commissioners;
  • state power to recall commissioners;
  • the need to garner a majority of state committees (delegations) at the convention;
  • Congress’s ability (and duty) to refuse to choose a mode of ratification for an ultra vires proposal;
  • the requirement that proposals be ratified by 38 states; and
    the potential for more judicial challenge, at every stage of the process.

"You can argue against the efficacy of any one or two of these if you like," Natelson concludes. "But combined together, they reduce the risks almost to the vanishing point. Consider, by contrast, the unrestrained reality of the runaway Congress."

Prof. Natelson includes much, much more in his full analysis, which you can read at the Article V Information Center here.

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What is less known is that the Founders gave state legislatures the power to act as a final check on abuses of power by Washington, DC. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state legislatures to call a convention to proposing needed amendments to the Constitution. This process does not require the consent of the federal government in Washington DC.

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