Reining in Congress: An Enforceable Balanced Budget Amendment

There is growing sentiment that one or more constitutional amendments may be necessary to rein in the runaway Congress.

The principal mechanism the Founders built into the Constitution for such contingencies is the procedure in Article V by which two thirds of the state legislatures force what the Constitution calls a “Convention for proposing Amendments.”    Essentially this is a meeting of state legislative representatives for the drafting of one or more amendments on subjects designated by the legislatures.

Of course, Congress and its apologists have every reason to prevent such a convention from being called, so they have widely misled people as its nature and powers.  But if corrective amendments are to be proposed, there is no alternative to such a convention. History has shown that Congress will not do it:  Repeal of Prohibition aside, Congress has not proposed a constitutional amendment to limit or define its own powers since it passed the Bill of Rights in 1789!

In other posts I have dealt with the convention bugaboos—see, e.g., here and here. They need not detain us at this point. The more important questions are:

* What amendments are appropriate? and

* How should they be drafted?

Many people have their own pet amendments they’d like to see passed, but realistically, any such proposal must meet at least four criteria. To illustrate, I’ll test versions of balanced budget amendments against each of the four:

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