For a convention of states

As a supporter of the Convention of States (COS), I was drawn to a recent AT article titled "Against the Convention of States."  The article challenged my perspective, but ultimately, I remained a supporter of the COS.  As such, I thought it would only be fair to provide a rebuttal to arguments against a COS. 

First, I would like to address concerns that COS would "run away."  This fear is based on the notion that a convention is not limited in scope and therefore could propose anything imaginable.  This fear ought to be calmed by the fact that three quarters of the states must ratify any amendments made.  This means that 13 states are all it would take to stop any proposal.  However, this is not the only backstop to a runaway convention.  The method by which states send and recall their representatives is another tool to prevent runaways.  If the state's chosen representative fails to argue on its behalf, all the state must do is recall him, and the runaway is stopped.  Finally, if this fails, and the convention proposes amendments that are not for the express purpose of calling the convention, then the amendments will be ultra vires, and therefore Congress, the courts, and any federal agency have the option to ignore and or strike it down.

This brings up the fear that the goals of COS are undefined, and therefore the scope is unlimited.  This is true, but only because a convention has not been called.  Contrary to popular belief, a convention ought to be limited in its scope.  This is based on the example set by our Founders and the example of the previous interstate conventions.  Following these examples, the scope of a convention would be set by the 34 or more successful applications. 

Of the 19 states that have called for a convention, each state has expressed the goal of reducing the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.  Some are specific, such as South Carolina's call for fiscal restraint and term limits.  Others such as Wisconsin specifically add that they do not recognize the legitimacy of a convention with the purpose of expanding the federal government.  Ultimately, there have been no states that have filed an application for a convention with the expressed purpose of expanding the federal government or completely rewriting the current Constitution. 

Regarding concerns about the inability of COS to prove effective, I wish to address the argument surrounding our current Constitution.  The Constitution in its original form is clear and concise, and it works.  But government officials have taken what originally could fit in your pocket and turned it into something that is 3,000 pages long.  This 3,000-page document is not our Constitution as written, but 3,000 pages of interpretations.  These interpretations arise from clauses such as the General Welfare Clause, which has been used to justify any spending that "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States."  The clause is vague and is lacking a definition of general welfare and or a limit on Congress's ability to spend more than it brings in.  A COS could propose amendments to clear up these ambiguities and restore our Constitution.

As I close, I would like to make it abundantly clear I am not proposing a silver bullet.  A COS is not a quick or guaranteed solution.  While it has made tremendous strides, COS still requires 15 states to pass legislation and if one is called, we are not guaranteed anything.  It is perfectly reasonable that we get no amendments or amendments that have little to no change on how things are.  I am not afraid of these facts, nor do I deny their existence.  But I do not think the possibility of failure entails a reason not to try. 

Image: Pixabay.

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