Skip to comments."A Convention for Proposing Amendments...as Part of This Constitution"
Posted on 03/27/2006 7:58:11 PM PST by Publius
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.
--Article V of the Constitution of the United States
The Founding Fathers left us two methods to propose amendments to the Constitution.
The Framers also left us two methods to ratify amendments, and they authorized Congress to decide which method was appropriate. The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress is limited to choosing one of the two methods.
One thing is perfectly clear: Article V gives the States Assembled in Convention the same proposal rights as Congress -- no more, no less. And no matter whether an amendment originates with Congress or a Convention for Proposing Amendments, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states before it can become part of the Constitution.
The Framers Safety Valve
Fearing a tyrannical Congress would block the amendment process, the Framers formulated Article V, wording it so as to fence off the Constitution from hostile or careless hands. They were careful to enumerate Three Forbidden Subjects.
The last Forbidden Subject is implied, rather than explicit, like the first two. The Framers took great pains to avoid using the term constitutional convention. Instead, the Founding Document refers to a Convention for proposing Amendments...as part of this Constitution. An Article V Convention is strictly limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of 1787, and it is forbidden to consider, compose, or even discuss a new constitution. No matter what amendments may be proposed, the Constitution must remain intact, else the actions of the convention become unconstitutional. Unless Article V is amended first to allow it, a Convention for Proposing Amendments can never become a true constitutional convention, i.e., it can never write a new constitution. And neither can Congress.
How It Would Work
The Founding Document is silent about a Convention for Proposing Amendments, except for establishing its existence and the criterion of its call by Congress. But some things can be extrapolated from the Constitution.
The Practical Side of a Convention for Proposing Amendments
Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution prevents a sitting congressman or senator from taking a seat as a delegate at a Convention for Proposing Amendments unless he first resigns his seat in Congress. It is safe to say that few would be willing to give up the permanent power of Congress for the transitory power of an Article V Convention.
So who would be elected by the states? Yourself, your friends, and your neighbors.
There would be no need for a party endorsement or a campaign war chest. Anyone who raised a vast sum of money or took campaign contributions from vested interests would immediately fall under suspicion. After all, an Article V Convention is about the Constitution, not pork, perks and personal power.
Anyone who wishes to run for Convention Delegate will have to know his Constitution. He will have to express strong positions on possible amendment proposals and be able to defend those positions in public. He cant hedge, waffle or use weasel words. Before the election, voters are sure to ask the candidate to submit his favorite amendment proposals in writing, which is the best way to avoid the slippery language of politics.
Most importantly, the candidate for Convention Delegate will have to be a person of integrity, respected in his community. And that eliminates most careerists of the current political class.
The conservative caricature of an Article V Convention is a disorderly mob of statists from Massachusetts, welfare recipients from New York, and New Agers and illegal aliens from California.
The liberal caricature of a convention is a gaggle of socially maladjusted individualists from Arizona, American Gothics from Indiana, Christers from Kansas, Johnny Rebs from South Carolina, and bearskin-clad mountain men from Alaska.
And to 49 states, the name of Texas conjures up the image of sharp businessmen skinning the other delegates out of their eye teeth.
They will all be there, and that is as it should be. At an Article V Convention, everyone will have an opportunity to make his case. And everyone will have to lay his cards on the table.
Here is a possible selection of things that one could expect at a convention.
But its a safe bet that only congressional term limits, a balanced budget, repeal of the income tax, a fix to the border problem, and one or more possible solutions to the problem of the Electoral College will get out of convention and be sent to the states for ratification.
And it's possible that none of the proposed amendments will receive the three-fourths ratification necessary to add them to the Constitution!
So why go through all this?
Because we as Americans need to know that our system works for us. Recent events have placed doubts in many minds, and there are those among us who would argue that the system does not work anymore and needs to be changed.
But that is the beauty of the Constitution of the United States. It is designed to be changed by the people, either through their national government or -- should that government fail to satisfy their mandate -- through a second system of amendment. The Framers bequeathed us two methods of amendment so that our government and its actions will always be under our control, not the governments.
Perhaps its time for the American people to show that government whos in charge.
Another thing that could happen at a Convention... the old Constitution could be scrapped completely.
Too many rats and too many chicken crap republicans to force an amendment.
If you read the essay completely, you'd see that your fear is not valid. The scrapping of the Constitution is forbidden. Please read the essay thoroughly.
It's misleading to think muleskiners and hayseeds would show up as state delegates - they would most likely be politicians of some sort.
That's why I mentioned Agenda Item #13.
How many states have shall-issued concealed carry?
Ho wdo you go about limiting a convention if it gets ambitious? Remember, the convention that gave us the Constitution was only charged with amending the Articles of Confederation. Insetad, it threw them out.
But it still had to be ratified by the states.
And with the nutballs in government today, you could probably get numerous states to ratify a brand-new, socialist constitution.
Someone needs to post "the map" again.
Nice essay. Its too bad that the states don't actually use one of the few checks they have left on the national government. As long as the states don't try to dump the whole Constitution at a convention, people will feel more comfortable with using that method of proposing amendments.
An Article V Convention is the property of the states, and the language used by the states to request Congress to call a convention defines the purview of that convention. In its petitioning language, the states may ask for a convention to address one subject, a plethora of subjects, or even ask for a general convention to address any subject, i.e. a revision of the Constitution.
The states define what the convention is permitted to address.
That is a quaint notion, JimRob. But Justice Black foresaw this day long ago with his dissent in Griswold:
Use of any such broad, unbounded judicial authority would make of this Court's members a day-to-day constitutional convention.
So there is no need to have a Constitutional Convention. As Justice Black predicted, we have one every time SCOTUS convenes.
And the convention can run away and propose just about anything. As a practical matter, how do you stop them?
If the states request a general revision of the Constitution, then it can address amendment proposals on any subject it wished. But not until. That potential aganda I listed is what might happen if the states requested an open convention to address any subject.
Failing such all-encompassing language, a convention would be restricted to the subject(s) that the states requested it to address.
Actually, I wrote the essay. Congressman Billybob took a look and caught me on two blatant mistakes.
I would not trust either a democrat or a republican with the constitution. Your idea is horseshit.
Yes, but how do you keep the convention from simply ignoring the restrictions? Politicians don't like restrictions on their authority.
As I said, the Constitutional Convention was a "ruanway" convention that exceeded its mandate to amend the Articles of Confederation.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.