Article V: Con-Con or Nothing is the Cry of This Cause Célèbre

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
02/26/2014
       
Article V: Con-Con or Nothing is the Cry of This Cause Célèbre

Supporters of the Article V constitutional convention claim that this is the only solution to our current problem of federal overreach.

Although leadership of the movement to call for an Article V “convention of states” go to great lengths to assure supporters that this meeting would not be a “constitutional convention,” the message apparently hasn’t reached the Illinois state legislature.

The “Short Description” of the bill provided on the official website of the Illinois General Assembly is “US Constitutional Convention.” This Freudian slip will surely result in a phone call from some big-money backer of the Article V convention within hours of the publication of this article. 

In fairness, though, the rest of the bill performs the requisite grammatical gymnastics that are the hallmark of ALEC-approved Article V legislative language.

As with other resolutions making their way through various state legislatures, the Illinois measure makes critical errors in its application of the letter of Article V of the Constitution.

Article V reads:

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.

Notice, concerned constitutionalists, that there is not a single word in that very important and controversial provision that provides for a limited convention. That did not stop the state legislature of Illinois from making that critical error, however.

Citing its opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and “related cases and events,” Senate Joint Resolution 42 calls for a convention “limited” to considering this issue.

The plain language of Article V limits neither the scope of the convention it anticipates nor the number of the amendments that may be proposed at such a meeting. 

In fact, if the purpose of the suggested convention is to propose amendments to the Constitution, doesn’t that make it per se a constitutional convention, regardless of how narrow an agenda those calling for the convention say they will follow? 

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