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No, no Con-Con

By Henry Lamb 
web posted February 28, 2011

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The U.S. Constitution provides two ways to offer amendments to the Constitution: by resolution of the Congress; and by a Constitutional Convention requested by two-thirds of the states.  In either case, the proposed amendment(s) must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

There is a very good reason why all 27 amendments to the Constitution were offered by Congressional resolution:  a Constitutional Convention is an invitation to disaster.

Proponents of a Constitutional Convention claim that opponents of a Con-Con use "…half-truths, myths and outright falsehoods…" to instill fear of the process.  They do not, however, provide any examples of the alleged "half-truths, myths, and outright falsehoods."

Here is the whole truth, which is neither a myth nor a falsehood.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows states to apply to the Congress for a Constitutional Convention.  Should two-thirds of the states issue such an application, Congress is compelled to call a Constitutional Convention.  Note, however, that the Constitution provides the states only with the authority to call for a convention for the purpose of "…proposing amendments…."  There is no authority for the states to specify what those amendments might be, or to set, or limit the agenda of a convention.

When 34 states have applied for a Constitutional convention, Congress is compelled to call a convention.  Here's where the scary begins. Congress sets the time and location for the Con-Con.  Congress determines how the delegates are chosen, and how many delegates will be chosen.  Congress could designate the existing Senate to be the delegates.  Congress could designate the Electoral College from the last Presidential election to be the delegates.  Or, Congress could allow the states to choose their own delegates in whatever manner Congress might contrive.  But this is not the scariest part.

Should a Constitutional Convention ever be assembled, neither Congress nor any state would have any authority or control over what the convention might do.  There is no way for Congress to set or limit the agenda of a Constitutional Convention, regardless of what proponents might say.  As evidence, consider the only Constitutional Convention that was ever assembled.  It was assembled expressly to amend the existing Articles of Confederation, with explicit instructions from some states for their delegates to walk out should the convention stray beyond this specific purpose.

History demonstrates that the convention ignored its instructions and abolished the Articles of Confederations while creating an entirely new Constitution.  There is nothing to prohibit another Constitutional convention from doing precisely the same thing.

Proponents of a Con-Con say that the requirement that three-fourths of the states must ratify whatever comes out of a Constitutional Amendment is a safeguard to prevent radicals on either side from imposing radical provisions.  These folks forget that the convention can specify what it takes to ratify whatever they produce.  They could produce a new Constitution with an entirely new form of government and specify that ratification would occur upon a simple majority vote in national referendum.  They could specify that the new document would be ratified when approved by state legislatures in any combination of states that represent more than 50-percent of the population.  Under this scenario, a handful of blue states could transform the government of the United States. 

Scary?  You bet.  Scenarios such as this should instill fear and force people to reject the idea of a Constitutional convention for any reason.  Here is a thorough explanation of the dangers.

There is great need, however, to amend the Constitution. The imbalance in powers between the states and the federal government grows in the favor of the feds every time Congress meets or the President speaks.  The United States of America originally was a unique experiment in shared sovereignty - in which the states' power was centered in the Senate, which had to approve virtually every legislative proposal suggested by the President or that originated in the people's House of Representatives.  The tension between what the states considered to be in their interest, and what the people's representatives and the President considered to be in their interests created a competition that could not move any idea forward until all parties had agreed.  This is the genius of the American System that made America the greatest nation on Earth.

The 17th Amendment removed the states altogether from participation in the federal government.  The federal government's power and budget has expanded ever since.  The time has come to restrain the powers of the federal government, and the best way to do it is to return to the design created by our Founders.  Repeal the 17th Amendment! ESR

Henry Lamb is the author of "The Rise of Global Governance,"  Chairman of Sovereignty International , and founder of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) and Freedom21, Inc.

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