Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Barry Kauffman testified before a rare joint hearing of the PA legislature’s House and Senate State Government Committees, urging them to reject the call for Federal Constitutional Convention (HR-63).
The hearing assembled advocates from across the nation who are pursuing the convention, as well as those who warned against a convention. Common Cause Pennsylvania urged the committees to reject the application to congress for a variety of reasons, but principally because there is no known way to guarantee a convention would keep to its charge – which would be to craft amendments calling for a mandatory balanced federal budget, term limits for all federal election officials, and other unspecified restrictions on federal government authority. Common Cause has long opposed both the call for a balanced budget amendment and the call for a federal constitutional convention.
Under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, 34 states would have to pass similar resolutions to require Congress to call a federal constitutional convention. Currently at least 28 states have passed resolutions calling for a convention for a balanced budget amendment (including Pennsylvania in 1976, with three other states having rescinded their resolutions). Twenty-two states have passed the current broader resolution. Therefore, it appear that if just 6 states pass a balanced budget resolution Congress would be required to call the first federal constitutional convention since 1787. Common Cause has grave concerns about the potential for a “runaway convention.” There is no known way to prevent a constitutional convention from expanding its work beyond its original call, which is one reason the convention call is being opposed from both the left and right.
At this time, it appears our our efforts are being successful, with the legislators (by the end of the hearing) expressing little appetite for pursuing such an initiative. Nevertheless, Common Cause Pennsylvania must remain vigilant to stop this dangerous resolution from moving any further.