Is Congress About to Call for a Con-Con?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
04/09/2014
       
Is Congress About to Call for a Con-Con?

Despite recent setbacks in several states, the movement to call for a constitutional convention (a so-called “convention of states”) has found a congressional ally.

On April 1, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) called for an inquiry into whether the requisite number of state legislatures have submitting qualifying petitions to satisfy the mandates of Article V.

Article V of the Constitution reads in relevant part: "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."

According to the information Duncan is relying on, Michigan’s call for a convention might have pushed the issue across the 34-state threshold.

“It is my belief that the House should lead an effort to ascertain whether 34 states have voted affirmatively,” Mr. Hunter said in a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, as reported by the Washington Times.

The letter continues:

A balanced budget amendment is long overdue and remains an effective tool to address runaway spending and deficits. With the recent decision by Michigan lawmakers, it is important that the House — and those of us who support a balanced budget amendment — determine whether the necessary number of states have acted and the appropriate role of Congress should this be the case.

Putting aside for a moment the critical question of whether 34 states have in fact applied for a constitutional convention (and, please, don’t waste time arguing that a convention to change the Constitution is not a constitutional convention), in reporting on Hunter’s call for a congressional finding, the Washington Times overlooks a key aspect of the procedure provided by Article V. Not coincidentally, the various proponents of an Article V convention make similar subtractions.

In explaining the method for approving any amendments proposed at a constitutional convention, the Washington Times writes, “the amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.” But that does not necessarily mean state legislatures, as many are led to believe. In actuality, Article V allows that any amendments approved by a constitutional convention “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.”

Read carefully — as any constitutionalists certainly should — Article V provides for a workaround should state legislatures prove reluctant to ratify any amendment preferred by the delegates to the con-con.

Click here to read the entire aritcle.

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