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Article V Of US Constitution – Part 2

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. For the first discussion on Article 5, please click HERE.

What are the primary objectives to a Convention of States (COS)? What exactly is a convention of States? I want to look at what a Convention of States is not, because that is far easier to explain.  Most times a COS is mistakenly referred to as a “Constitutional Convention”, and nothing could be further from the truth.  A constitutional convention would be intent on rewriting or proposing a new constitution.  A COS is called to discuss and offer amendments to the existing constitution, not rewrite or do away with it. Period.

 The objection that is heard most is that a COS will become a “runaway convention”, that it will change existing amendments or eliminate those that they object to. Simply put, that cannot happen. A quick look at the states that have advanced the COS resolution shows that the wording is remarkably similar. They propose discussing three proposed amendments, that of fiscal responsibility, term limits, and reining in the power of the federal government.

Any discussion outside these proposals would be ruled out of order and if a member of that committee continues to bring it up, they would be asked to leave the convention. So, the fears of a “runaway convention” are groundless.  They are just that, fears which cannot happen.

So how exactly does a convention like this happen?  How do we get to a Convention of States?  The first thing is that it takes 2/3’s of the states to approve the resolution.  That is 34 states.  When that happens, the states petition Congress to call for a COS. If the Congress will not do so, then the states themselves proceed to call the convention themselves.  The COS can and will happen with or without the “help” of the US Congress.

After the time and place is agreed upon it turns to the various states to decide how many delegates, or more correctly, commissioners, they want to appoint.  Each state does this in their own fashion and they can appoint as many commissioners as they would like. When it comes to voting at the convention though, no matter how many people are appointed by a state, each state only gets one vote.

After coming to an agreement on the wording of the proposals, it then goes for ratification by each state.  This step requires 3 ? 4s or 38 states to approve the proposals or the amendments do not become part of the Constitution. If 38 states approve, the proposed amendments then become part of the Constitution. The founding fathers made it difficult on purpose to enact changes to this document.

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So, has a true convention of states ever happened? One that called for amendments to the Constitution?  No.  They have come close, but when they did get close to being formally called, the Congress came up with the amendments and then they were ratified before enough states could pass the resolutions. So, the question is, why not just let Congress do this?  They have done it before.  A Convention of States for this purpose has never happened. You only have to look at the proposed amendments to realize there is no way that this will ever happen.  It is going to fall on the states and the state legislators to follow through and make sure this happens.

 What can we do as citizens?  We can contact our local delegates, representatives, or state senators and inform them of what can take place through their state.  We can ask for their support of COS. We can educate them on the use of Article 5 of the US Constitution.  It was a safeguard included by the founding fathers to reign in a national government that was and is now, overstepping its boundaries.

By Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet is a retired Marine and a retired air traffic controller who is greatly concerned about the direction the country is taking.