Should the States Use Article V to Rein in Federal Government?
Louisiana resolutions propose amending the US Constitution through a convention of states to curb federal spending and power
Americans are losing faith in the federal government.
A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found just 19 percent of responders trusted “the government in Washington always or most of the time.” According to Pew, 19 percent is close to historic lows.
Corroborating these findings, a 2015 Gallup poll found just 32 percent of responders had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the Supreme Court, and just 8 and 33 percent trusted congress and the presidency. Again, these percentages are among all-time lows.
And no wonder. Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. and Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self-Governance, highlighted in a recent op-ed:
“The president subverts Congressional power with executive orders that make or change laws. The Supreme Court reinterprets and disregards the clear meaning of statutes and the Constitution. Federal agencies run by un-elected bureaucrats have so much power that Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) calls them “the fourth branch of government.” Congress, meanwhile, shows little interest in curbing these abuses.”
As America’s political leadership continues to disappoint, and the upwards of $19 trillion national deficit continues to rise, some Americans are concluding that these issues will not be solved in Washington. A number of coalitions have united in belief that the only solution left for America lies in Article V of the United States Constitution.
Through Article V, the Founding Fathers gave the states the freedom to form a convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
Supporters argue that through a convention of states, the rule of law could be restored in America by passing amendments that would reduce federal spending, limit federal government power and term limit members of congress and federal officials.
A number of political leaders and national organizations are among those advocating for this goal, including:
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott has authored Restoring the Rule of Law with States Leading the Way, a 92-page plan where he proposes using Article V to make 9 constitutional amendments that would restrict federal overreach to restore the Founding Fathers’ intended balance of powers between the state and federal government.
- Convention of States (COS) is a project of Citizens for Self-Governance that urges state legislators to pass resolutions calling for a convention of states for the subject of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.
- Compact for America is an organization encouraging the states to propose, through an Article V convention of the states, and ratify a specific balanced budget amendment into the United States Constitution by April 12, 2021.
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a “nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” ALEC has published Proposing Constitutional Amendments By A Convention Of The States: A Handbook For State Lawmakers, an Article V handbook for state leaders by Professor Rob Natelson. ALEC also affirmed its support for the Article V initiatives in a letter sent to United States House Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA).
Notwithstanding the growing support for such an approach, there are a number of critics who appreciate the goal of this Article V mission, but do not support the actual process. These critics have expressed two concerns:
- A convention of states is highly unlikely to occur and therefore it would be wasteful to spend time, effort and resources on the initiative.
- A constitutional convention could be “hijacked,” which could ultimately result in undesirable amendments or even a complete constitutional rewrite.
Article V supporters respond by pointing out that while it is difficult to call for a convention – 34 states must pass a resolution to use Article V for the same purpose – the growing sense that the country faces a dire situation makes it more likely that such a convention could be called.
Further, supporters note that because it is difficult to ratify any proposed amendment – just one chamber from only 13 states needs to reject a proposal for it to die – it is unlikely that radical, dangerous or ill-intentioned proposals would become law.
Article V supporters also point to further measures states could take to make sure a convention does not go awry. For example, states could pass laws that would deter their representing delegate from going rogue. Others propose a convention that abides by a specific rule set to keep things orderly, and limiting convention topics to only those that limit federal spending, power and jurisdiction.
Several states have already passed Article V resolutions for the purpose of reining in the federal government, and the Pelican State may be headed in that direction. COS-supported resolutions have been filed in Louisiana’s House of Representatives and Senate.
Sen. Dan Claitor’s SCR52 was reported favorably by a 6-1 vote by the Senate and Government Affairs Committee last week and Rep. Ray Garofalo’s HCR95 will soon be heard in the House and Governmental Affairs committee.
Both resolutions call for a convention of states under Article V for the purpose of proposing amendments to the United States Constitution to restrain federal spending, limit federal power and jurisdiction and provide for term limits on federal officials.