The States' Trump Card against the Fed
A fourth branch of government was created by Article V of the Constitution, superior to the other three. It consists of 7,382 voting members, distributed in the 50 States. In order to act, this fourth branch, which I call the Federal Assembly, must organize itself into a two-thirds supermajority of the States in order to make a proposal. Majorities in both houses of a state legislature in 34 states must agree on the subject matter to be addressed by an Amendment Convention. And then, once the Amendment Convention agrees on the language of the proposed Amendment, an even more challenging three-fourths supermajority of states is required to adopt it.
It's hard, and it's never been done in the 229 years we've had the Constitution – not until now. By using their Article V power, in 2017, the states, and the people, will, for the very first time, exercise their sovereignty. And it is full sovereignty, plenary, unlimited. Aside from not reducing the equal suffrage of the states in the Senate, the Federal Assembly can do anything the people want it to do. It's popular sovereignty. It's the people showing the federal government who's in charge.
Two of the other three branches of government, the president and the Supreme Court, have no role to play in any of this. The federal courts do not have jurisdiction over the states when they are exercising their Article V powers, and the president has no involvement whatsoever. The third branch, Congress, has only a ministerial role to play. The only discretion Congress has is in selecting the time and place of the Amendment Convention, and of choosing the method of ratification – by the state legislatures or by state conventions.
In order to organize a two-thirds supermajority, the States may choose to meet in a preliminary Convention of States. This was last done in 1861, in Washington. State delegations assembled to try to avert the Civil War, but they didn't have enough time, and they failed. The previous Convention of States, held in Nashville in 1850, was more successful. It helped form the Compromise of 1850, which stopped the movement toward secession. But the Dred Scott decision overturned the Compromise of 1850, and the Civil War soon followed.
There will be a Convention of States dealing with the Balanced Budget Amendment this summer. It will be the first in 156 years. We have been so conditioned into thinking of ourselves as a nation that we've forgotten that we have another political identity. I live in California, so I'm a Californian. And California has rights under Article V, and I am going to personally ask my assemblyman, Frank Bigelow, and my state senator, Tom Berryhill, to introduce an Article V Resolution calling for an Amendment Convention for the purpose of proposing a Congressional Term Limits Amendment. You should do the same with your state legislators. We're going to get a Balanced Budget Amendment, so what's next? It is obviously Term Limits.
The campaign for congressional term limits is completely bipartisan. Every Bernie Sanders voter would be for it. They all hate Congress. Everybody hates Congress. The only people who don't like term limits are politicians, because it interferes with their careers at the public trough.
U.S. Term Limits, founded by Howard Rich in 1991, and the U.S. Term Limits Foundation, headed by John Aglialoro, have only one state, Florida, of the 34 needed for a Term Limits Amendment Convention, but that's going to change in a hurry. Once state legislators become aware of the power of the Federal Assembly, they'll want to use it again and again. The Balanced Budget Amendment comes first, followed by Term Limits.
The third priority of the states will be discussed, informally, at this summer's Convention of States. I suspect that it will be another of the Liberty Amendments, popularized by Mark Levin.
Levin has played no role in the Balanced Budget campaign or in the campaign for term limits. He supports a competing proposal, called, misleadingly, "The Convention of States." It calls for a wide open Amendment Convention, with the authority to propose a series of amendments, in an all-out assault on the federal government. But this approach has a fatal flaw, and despite spending millions of dollars, it has only eight of the needed 34 states.
What Levin doesn't understand is that there are different political coalitions that support different amendments. The coalition that is succeeding with the Balanced Budget Amendment is different from the coalition supporting term limits. Including both, within one Article V Amendment Convention, doubles your opposition. Some state legislators want a Balanced Budget Amendment but not term limits, and vice versa. It's Politics 101, but Levin is a lawyer, not a politician, and he doesn't understand politics.
The entire Article V movement is opposed by President-Elect Trump. He was the only Republican candidate in opposition. His base includes the alt right, and these misguided souls think Article V is a threat to the Constitution and the work of the devil. Article V will happen despite Trump and the fringe groups that support him. In fact, a president, no matter who he is, has no role to play under Article V. The states, if they so choose, can use it as a weapon against a tyrannical president. As a matter of law, Article V could be used to impeach a president, or any federal official. Trump wants to centralize power and control it. Article V is about the dispersal of power to the states and the people.
The great value of this summer's Convention of States is educational. People will wonder: what is a Convention of States? And some of them will even read Article V of the Constitution to figure out what all this means. While they're at it, they might want to look at the Bill of Rights and read it – all of it, including the 9th and 10th Amendments. What do those words mean?
The Convention of States of 2017 will happen in a historic location, one that played a central role in our history. It's a place identified with our greatest president, excepting Washington himself. It will be on the 250th anniversary of his birth. And it will be in his honor, and that of his mother, the mother of her country. She, not U.S. Grant, should have her likeness on the $50 bill. This too may happen.
Fritz Pettyjohn was the chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-80 and is currently working with Lew Uhler's National Tax Limitation Committee and Bill Fruth's Balanced Budget Inc. He blogs at Reagan Project.com.