The following was written by Convention of States Regional Director David Schneider and originally published on the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
I’d like to take issue with several points raised by Professor David Schultz in his opinion piece (“Why a constitutional convention is a bad idea,” March 18). I think it prudent to give a perspective from the grassroots.
Anger with Washington, D.C., is clear, and the “deep state” is becoming more evident as the described “swamp” is fighting back. The Trump administration has found that pulling the plug is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, the “swamp things” in D.C. are adept in fighting for the system that supports blurred lines formerly known as checks and balances.
The federal government has grown out of control. It has only continued to get bigger and more intrusive into our daily lives under every administration since Calvin Coolidge left office in 1929. It has had its greatest growth in the last 25 years, and it would appear there is nothing that will stop its insatiable appetite for more spending. This was manifest last week as our national debt hit $21 trillion, and the massive “omnibus” spending bill does not eliminate one cent of waste, fraud or abuse.
Thankfully, Americans have a solution that empowers them to act to rein in Washington — Article V of the Constitution. Many checks were placed between the three branches of the federal government. The creators of the federal government also left themselves with the ultimate check on their creation inserted in the second clause of Article V. That clause allows the states to call a convention that holds no power other than to meet and propose reforms in the form of amendments.
Many confuse an Article V amending Convention of the States with a “constitutional convention.” They are not the same thing. An Article V Convention of States is limited to the subject matter in the applications passed through 34 States. A “constitutional convention” is not called from within the Constitution, just as the 1787 Philadelphia Convention was not called from within the Articles of Confederation. If the states wanted to call a new “constitutional convention,” they need not bother with Article V to do it.
The nation’s foremost authority on Article V, Professor Rob Natelson has written extensively about previous state conventions, including two in the 20th Century. In total, the states have met in more than 30 conventions in the past, never using the Article V provision to do so. Every previous attempt to initiate an Article V Convention has always moved Congress to act in the passage of amendments to appease the states and alleviate the concerns of the time.
The Constitution did not include the Bill of Rights for a couple of years. The states were promised, during the ratification process, that these rights would be spelled out. Congress was slow to act, and thus Virginia led the way by passing the very first application for an Article V Convention to secure what we now know as the Bill of Rights. New York was quick to follow suit with the second application for the same purpose. Other states were ready to do the same, and James Madison quickly recognized Congress had better live up to its promise. He spearheaded writing the proposed amendments, which were debated, watered down to Congress’ liking, passed, and then sent to the states for their acceptance through ratification.
The founders understood the federal government that they had just created could certainly grow to become too big and unresponsive to reform. They understood that the states needed a way of circumventing the federal system to truly be a solution to this prophesized problem. Article V was their solution to the issues we face today.
Today we fear the unknown. We have become unfamiliar with the process of the states meeting in conventions. Fear is debilitating. We must push aside fear of this constitutional process, and go forward knowing the only solution big enough to restore our founding fathers’ vision of liberty and freedom resides in the Constitution itself.
Their action plan spelled out in the Constitution starts with two thirds of the States (34) all agreeing on a meeting topic. The meeting is called. Each individual state selects its own commissioners and provides them with instructions and their ticket to the meeting. All states are invited, and will each only get a sum total of one vote no matter their number of commissioners or population. They debate proposals, and if a majority of the states agree (26) those proposals are all sent out to the states for approval. Ratification occurs if three-fourths (38) agree to the reforms. So to be clear, 13 states, if they don’t like any part of the proposals, can stop any one of them from being adopted.
This process is ingenious. The sheer amount of support needed insures only reforms supported by the vast majority of Americans. We already know which reforms could pass the high threshold: Term limits on Congress and the judiciary, a restructure of the tax code, regulatory reform, local control of decisions, spending thresholds and using generally accepted accounting principles to balance the federal budget would have the overwhelming support needed to face the high hurdle of ratification. These are all reforms heavily supported by Americans, but that will never come from Congress. The answers for fixing America will never come from inside the Beltway.
There are plenty of scholars who agree with my points, including Robert P. George, Randy Barnett and John C. Eastman, but admittedly, I am just a humble patriot with no legal background. I am just thankful I can read the Constitution for myself, do some research and act in the manner prescribed by the men who wrote it. It is time for we the people to use the Constitution to restore the republic, so we can keep it for another 230 years.
Minnesota has the opportunity to join Texas, Florida, North Dakota, Indiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana and Alaska that have already passed the Convention of States application that would place further limits on the size, scope and jurisdiction of the federal government, fiscal restraints, and term limits on federal officials. The Minnesota State Senate is considering SF 3490, and the Minnesota House of Representatives is considering HF 2690. These two identical resolutions match the other states mentioned above. Those states are ready to discuss reforming Washington, D.C. Is Minnesota going to join them, or will fear prevent it? The time is now to act.