Every year Congress is presented with numerous proposals for Constitutional amerndments, but only rarely does one see the light of day. Most are greeted with the statement “Congress will never allow that to happen.” But there is another way to amend the Constitution other than action by Congress.
Here is a partial list of recent suggestions for Constitutional amendments:
•To ensure reproductive rights of women
•To force the Congress and President to agree to a balanced budget, with overspending allowed only in the case of a three-fifths vote of Congress
•To ensure that all children who are citizens have a right to a “free and adequate education”
•To specifically permit prayer at school meetings and ceremonies
•To allow non-natural born citizens to become President if they have been a citizen for 20 years
•To specifically allow Congress to regulate the amount of personal funds a candidate to public office can expend in a campaign
•To ensure that apportionment of Representatives be set by counting only citizens
•To make the filibuster in the Senate a part of the Constitution
•To provide for continuity of government in case of a catastrophic event
•The “Every Vote Counts” Amendment — providing for direct election of the President and Vice President, abolishing the Electoral College
•To clarify eminent domain, specifically that no takings can be transferred to a private person except for transportation projects
•Providing a right to work, for equal pay for equal work, the right to organize, and the right to favorable work conditions
•To allow the President to reduce any Congressional appropriation, or to disapprove of same (akin to a line-item veto)
The critics are right. None of these suggestions have any chance of receiving two thirds votes in either house.
But the citizens of the United States, acting through their state governments, can bypass Congress if two thirds of the state legislators vote to call convention to consider changes in the Constitution. Once such a convention meets and adapts changes, then three forth of the states must ratify their actions in order to make their decisions stick. You will find this in Article V of the Constitution.
There is a major problem with this method of amending the Constitution. Once a constitution convention has been seated, there is no limit on what they can do. They can recommend to the states any number of amendments on all subjects. Or they can scrap the present constitution and write a totally new one.. If the states agree, this new plan of government would become law.
Such an action is likely only if the citizens of this nation feel that their Constitution has been damaged beyond repair. There are many who feel this has already happened. Several states are exploring legal action to have much of the current legislation declared unconstitutional. If they fail in this effort, and enough of our citizens acting through their state governments demand constitutional changes, it is possible they would be successful.
In that event, there would be a real chance that dangerous new constitutional provisions might be added and that could cause much more harm than good.
It would be a case of “be careful what you ask for — you might get it!”
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
Brent A. Mikel (Maysville, GA)
01/14/10 at 04:29 PM
There is no way I can do this quote justice by splitting it like I did, but here goes:
"... it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish [any Form of Government [that] becomes destructive of these Ends]. ... Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes ..." (U.S. Declaration of Independence, 2nd Paragraph).
On one hand I like the idea of the states standing up to and resisting the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court regarding Washington's over-reaching power grabs. However, I also see, like Mr. Gillispie writes, were any states-led Constitution Conventions formed that they ought to be done with fervent adherence to the established written principles in the U.S. Constitution ensuring:
(1) our rights as free and independent citizens (Amendments 1 - 9),
(2) the rights of individual states (Amendment 10), and
(3) still recognizing our need of a responsible federal government for defense, diplomacy, and interstate/international commerce (Articles 1 - 7).
How does that old saying go? - "Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts all the way through."