“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, April 2, 2010

Scooped by Rep. LeMunyon

I've been roughly framing a post like this for over a week now.

Thus, I was a bit crestfallen to read James LeMunyon's Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday, entitled A Constitutional Convention Can Rein in Washington.

He beat me to the punch. But with more data than I have, so it's probably a good thing that this piece follows his.

LeMunyon wrote,

"The U.S. Congress is in a state of serious disrepair and cannot fix itself. It has reached this point over the course of many years—in fact over many decades. Regardless of the party in power, Congress has demonstrated a growing inability to effectively address the major issues of our time, including soaring federal debt and the extension of federal authority to states and localities.

The only effective remedy is constitutional reform to rein in congressional excesses and abuses. But Congress can't be expected to propose amendments to fix itself, as it has an inherent conflict of interest.

The remedy is in Article V of the Constitution, which permits a convention to be called for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. Any proposed amendment then would have to be ratified by both houses of 38 state legislatures (three-fourths of the states). This entails 76 separate votes in the affirmative by two houses of the 38 state legislatures. (Nebraska, with its unicameral legislature, would be an exception.)

Interest in calling a first-ever Article V convention is growing at the state level. A petition for such a convention passed the Florida Senate last month, to propose amendments requiring a balanced budget and to restrain the growth of the national government. If approved by the House, Florida would be the 20th state with an active call to do so. In the Virginia House of Delegates, I introduced a resolution (H.J. 183) calling for a constitutional convention to restrain the national government as well. Requests by two-thirds or 34 states are required for a convention to be called."

Generally, I agree with his contention that Congress can't be trusted to act against its own self-interest. The only exception I could foresee would be for the existing Republican House leadership to issue their own version of Gingrich's Contract with America, this time including promised Constitutional amendments involving term limits, spending, the commerce clause, and others. Perhaps as in this post.

However, even then, they may not go far enough.

I wasn't aware of the existing momentum in as many as 20 states to call for a convention.

LeMunyon reasonably argues that it would be hard for any fringe group to manage to pass a radically-altered Constitution over the objections of as few as 27 state legislatures.

Instead, he observes,

"Fear of a runaway convention presupposes a profound lack of confidence in state legislatures. It presumes that a majority in 76 legislative houses in 38 states would seriously consider, for example, amending or deleting the Bill of Rights. It presumes that only an elite class of Americans with Washington-based power can get it right when it comes to the Constitution. It presumes that the provisions of the Constitution are something imposed on the people, possibly against their will, rather than a limited grant of authority by the people, supported by the current generation of Americans and amendable to reflect 21st century realities.

It is a mistake to dwell on hypothetical and unfounded concerns about the outcome of a runaway constitutional convention. We instead should focus on the immediate reality of a "runaway Congress" and its accumulation of debt far beyond the ability of Americans to pay. "

This last passage really encapsulates the key point of LeMunyon's, and my own argument. Regardless of party affiliation or, more likely now, party independence, many educated, engaged voters can see that a Constitutional rewrite is actually less risky than surprisingly recent, rapid destruction of our Republic by the spending of an out-of-control Congress and administration.

Electing new members of Congress hasn't worked for decades. Presidents of both parties become imperialistic. Our courts have overstepped the bounds of the Constitution.

I honestly think these continuing risks are greater than that of a large group of state legislators, with over 200 years of history, and 100 years of determined Federal power creep and shredding of the Constitution in the name of Progressivism, doing more damage by amending the Constitution.

As a colleague reminded me recently, it seems many Americans forget that the federal government is not a party to our Constitution, but, rather, a product of it.

The states, now 50 in number (not 57, as in the world according to Wonderboy), enacted the Constitution as a pact among themselves. They can, and should, feel free to change that agreement as they see fit, according to the current Constitution's provisions.

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