Do we have a common cause?
Members of both parties should work to fix Washington.
Can't we all pretty much agree that Congress is a broken institution, barely capable of functioning at all? Don't a lot of lefties and liberals realize that this concentration of wealth and power in the Washington Beltway is unhealthy for democracy?
Most Republican conservatives, and that's most Republicans, have some sympathy for Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the Republican leadership (including, especially, Rep. Steve Scalise, may the Lord help him). But even if you like and respect them, they have an almost impossible job.
The institutions they lead don't work, can't really work. The system is broken and incapable of fixing itself. Read Representative Ken Buck's Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think for the details. What can be done?
Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment through Article V, and see what happens. Will Congress respond by faithfully following the new instructions in the Constitution? Or will congressmen play their typical games and pay as much attention to the BBA as they do to the other commands of the Constitution?
What can we do if they flout the BBA? Recall them, all of them. That would require another Article V Amendment. It could simply state that at the next federal election, no sitting member of Congress would be eligible to run. Senators with two and four years remaining could retain their seats, but only for the rest of their terms.
This would not be a term limits amendment. The newly elected members of Congress can serve as long as their constituents elect them. But all of them would know that the state legislatures of this country were ready, willing, and able to throw them all out if they don't perform. They will have done it once and could do it again.
Who would these new congressmen be? Most likely the leaders of the state legislatures. A lot of these people have ambition for higher office. A Senate president or a House speaker is a good candidate for the United States Senate. Other leading state legislators would run for the House.
Since this will be a brand-new Congress, voters will want experienced legislators, with a proven track record, to represent them. In one sense, an Article V congressional recall amendment convention would be a meeting of the same people, more or less, who would be taking over Congress if the amendment is ratified. This may provide some bipartisan motivation.
Congress gets to decide how it's ratified, so it would be by special state conventions. My hunch is that the people of this country, left and right, would jump at the chance to throw the bums out and start over. Maybe that's how we unite the country. Against Congress.
Twenty-seven of the needed 34 State Legislative BBA Resolves have passed. Seven of the remaining states are under Republican control – Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Virginia, Minnesota, and South Carolina. This means the vote of no Democratic legislator is needed to call a Balanced Budget Amendment Convention. But this shouldn't be a partisan issue, because it's not a Republican or a Democratic problem. It's an American problem.
The Arizona Legislature has called a Convention of States in Phoenix on September 12. It will be the first national Convention of States since the 1861 Washington Peace Conference. Its purpose is to plan for, and write rules for, the Article V Balanced Budget Amendment Convention, if and when it is called.
Initial reactions to the call have been positive, and all the 32 state legislatures under Republican control are expected to send commissioners to Phoenix. The outlook is less clear for Democrat-controlled legislatures. It is hoped that all states will be represented.
If a Democratic legislature refuses to participate, the question will be why. Are they against Article V, or are they against a Balanced Budget Amendment?
With just a few exceptions, every state legislative leader, regardless of party, is constitutionally required to pass a budget in balance. It's the hardest thing they have to do, but they do it. All of them, Democrat and Republican. Why shouldn't Congress be required to do the same?
Fritz Pettyjohn was an Alaska state senator and House minority leader, who blogs at ReaganProject.com. In 1983 he voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment Convention Resolution. It was carried by Democratic state senator Bob Ziegler of Ketchikan.