Campaigning over the weekend in Iowa for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced his support for a dangerous idea: a national convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to propose constitutional amendments on term limits and a balanced federal budget.
Rubio insisted that on his first day in office he would “put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states.” He joined other GOP candidates for president, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Mike Huckabee, in endorsing an Article V convention.
As Common Cause’s recent report, The Dangerous Path: Big Money’s Plan to Shred the Constitution, details, an Article V convention would invite constitutional chaos. While authorizing a convention, the Constitution provides no rules for how it might be conducted, or how and by whom states would be represented. Legal experts warn that there is nothing to prevent a convention from being expanded in scope to address issues not raised in the original petitions calling for a convention.
Despite these obvious problems, 27 states have passed resolutions calling for an Article V convention to draft and propose a balanced budget amendment. That means Article V advocates are just seven states away from their goal of endorsements by 34 states, enough to force Congress to order the convention.
Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobby that masquerades as a charity, have endorsed convention proposals and are lobbying in target states on the convention’s behalf. Both Rubio and Kasich are alumni of ALEC, while Cruz and Huckabee have been featured speakers at recent ALEC conferences.
ALEC most recently endorsed the Convention of States initiative, a project of the tea party group Citizens for Self-Governance. While backers of the Convention of States initiative claim their convention would deal with a limited agenda, such as a balanced budget amendment and term limits for members of Congress, they’ve also regularly claimed that a constitutional convention is needed to repeal federal laws and US Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality, healthcare, environmental protection, gun control, and the budget process.
There is broad public support for governmental reform. Partisan gridlock and big money in politics have blocked congressional action on important issues, led to a failed budgeting process, and silenced the voices of everyday voters who want government to function correctly. But an Article V constitutional convention almost certainly wouldn’t solve those problems; instead it would only make them worse. With limits on political spending out the window, special interest groups could be counted on to open their checkbooks in support of a variety of special interest constitutional amendments. And after decades of extreme gerrymandering in Congress and many legislatures, it’s unlikely that citizens would be equally represented or that states would have proportional votes in a convention. In the end, a convention would simply led to chaos, not a better democracy.
The alternative path to an amending the Constitution, through action by a two-thirds majority in Congress then ratification by three-fourths of the states, has been successful through the U.S. Constitution’s 226-year history. It is a difficult process, but that’s because the framers understood that amending the constitution should be taken with great deliberation in order to protect our nation.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms
Tags: The Dangerous Path