It’s Been Done Before: A Convention of the States to Propose Constitutional Amendments

In 1861, the states held a dry run for an Article V “convention for proposing amendments.”

The event was the Washington Conference Convention or Washington Peace Conference. It was called by the Virginia legislature in January of 1861 in an effort to avert the Civil War. The idea was that the convention would draft and propose one or more constitutional amendments that, if ratified, would weaken extremists in both the North and the South, and thereby save the Union.

This gathering differed from an Article V convention primarily in that it made its proposal to Congress rather than to the states. In most other respects, it was a blueprint for how an Article V convention would conduct itself.

When the convention met in Washington D.C. on February 4, 1861, seven of the eleven states eventually in the Confederacy already had seceded. Of the 26 then remaining in the Union, 21 sent committees (delegations).  The conference lasted until February 27, when it proposed a 7-section constitutional amendment.

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Count of Legislative Applications for a Balanced Budget Amendment

The following states have applications outstanding for a federal convention to propose a balanced budget amendment: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

That’s 19 of the 34 states required. In addition, Illinois has an 1861 application outstanding that says essentially that Illinois hereby joins with the application of any state that chooses to make one. Arguably, that pushes it to 20.

However, Florida’s recent (2011) application may be too specific in its terms to be counted along with (“aggregated with”) with those of other states. The applications of Delaware, Maryland, and Mississippi may be invalid for mandating specific language to the convention. That leaves 16 (or 15 if the Illinois application isn’t counted).

As the count nears 34, we no doubt will see lawsuits from groups that want to keep spending no matter what the debt is. They will raise a number of other objections, including claims that some of the existing applications, even though never repealed, are too old. In my professional judgment, those objections are unlikely to prevail.

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New Flyer Explains How the States Can Use the Constitutional Amendment Process to Curb the Feds (Article V)

The Founders built various checks and balances into the Constitution. One of the most important was the power of state legislatures to propose constitutional amendments to curb an abusive federal government. The Founders placed the procedure in the Constitution’s Article V. The Founders would be astonished—and chagrined—to learn the process has never been used. If…

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Can the President Raise the Debt Limit Unilaterally? Hell no! Part II

The claim—partly silly, partly dangerous—that President Obama may raise the debt limit unilaterally without the approval of Congress is again being raised. I addressed it previously here. Now it has been further debunked in a Wall Street Journal op-edauthored by David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey.

Under the Constitution, only Congress may incur debt. The exclusive power of the legislature to do so is one of the central parts of our governmental system, pre-dating the Constitution by centuries, and with its roots in colonial and British practice.

Those seeking this indefensible extension of presidential power argue that the existing level of entitlement benefits are “debt” and that the Fourteenth Amendment requires it to be paid.

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Boehner Admits Mistake: Sometimes the Constitutional Course is the Wisest Politically

In a December post, I pointed out that House Speaker John Boehner should not be conceding the initiative on revenue measures to the Senate and President. Doing so not only made no political sense, but it was contrary to the Constitution’s mandate that revenue bills originate in the House. Mr. Boehner now agrees that he erred.…

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A Correction They Didn’t Print: The Denver Post and Judge Bork

A Denver Post article on the passing of Judge Robert Bork (Dec. 20) says, “He advocated a view of judging known as ’strict constructionism’ or ‘originalism.’”Actually, the writer was confused. Those two terms have very different meanings. An originalist believes the Constitution, like other legal documents, should be construed as understood by the people who…

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Why States Must Shun the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

During the Obamacare case before the Supreme Court, the Independence Institute argued that the law’s provisions forcing the states to expand Medicaid were unconstitutional. Neither the Constitution nor case law, we pointed out, permits the federal government to use federal spending programs to coerce the states. Seven of the nine justices agreed with us, essentially adopting…

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Election: Glass Partly Full

Isn’t it interesting—when Republicans win big, lefty spinmeisters talk compromise and bipartisanship. When Democrats win, even if they win small, lefty spinmeisters just want to crush everyone else.

So, not surprisingly, one of these sublapidarians is now arguing that the size of Obama’s win is a mandate for the “progressive” agenda. Beyond absurd.

The results were bad, but they were not that bad. Keep in mind that:

* Any sitting President gets several million votes from the exposure due to incumbancy—votes that have little to do with policy.

* Despite the celebrated demographic changes, Obama really won by the skin of his teeth—around a 2 percent margin, maybe less.

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What now?

The November 6 election outcome has many friends of the Constitution dispirited. As so often before, they hoped that by defeating federal candidates contemptuous of constitutional limits and replacing them with others, they could help restore our Constitution.

Obviously, that decades-long strategy has failedspectacularly.

They also have long hoped that by appointing the right people to the U.S. Supreme Court, they could win case decisions restoring constitutional limits. But after 40 years, that campaign has produced only indifferent results. Actually, worse than indifferent:  When, through the 2010 Obamacare law, federal politicians overreached further than they ever had before—by imposing a mandate ordering almost everyone in the country to buy a commercial product—the Court didn’t even hold the much-weakened line. Rather, the Court upheld the mandate.

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America Transformed

originally published at the Electric City Weblog

The claims were that this was a tipping point election, and those claims were not hyperbole. Barack Obama has, as promised, “transformed” America.

Fifty years ago—even 20 years ago—these election results would have been unthinkable. A largely failed President, hampered by deeply unpopular legislation and a stagnant economy, wins re-election against a highly qualified opponent with unblemished character and a distinguished record. An advocate of late term abortion, free contraceptives, and homosexual marriage who is (with some justification) accused of attacking religious freedom, prevails over the opposition of Catholics, Mormons, and Evangelicals united. The architect of impending national bankruptcy beats a celebrated problem-solver.

His winning issues? Spending even more. . . the inherent wickedness of his opponent’s (“sterling” admits Bill Clinton) business career. . . and federally-subsidized sex. Under pressure, Obama won by moving not to the center but further left.

The America that re-elected President Obama is clearly very different from the America that became history’s greatest nation. That was a nation marked by faith, hard work, courage, and independence. But it is clear that we have now been transformed.

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