Typically, I find myself at odds with conservative firebrands like Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican who called the Women’s March a joke, accused NAACP leader the Rev. William Barber of being a racist and once queried whether, when it comes to humane euthanasia of animals, he should choose an ax or a baseball bat.
To my astonishment, however, I find myself in complete agreement with him on at least one point: the Convention of States Project, an effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, is a bad idea.
A very bad idea.
A scary idea.
A very bad, very scary idea that if implemented, has the capability of derailing our system of government, which, for all of its many flaws, is something to believe in and support. There simply is no better successor waiting in the wings.
Convention of States Project supporters want to amend the U.S. Constitution and impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.
If that sounds good to you, I can understand why, even though I’m not in agreement with such a sweeping indictment of the federal government. But, putting aside this argument for the sake of another, I have grave concerns about how supporters hope to make these changes.
Bear with me for a moment, because I need to provide some background.
Article V allows for two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution.
1) Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate must approve a proposed amendment by two-thirds of the votes, then three-fourths (38 of 50) states must agree. The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times using this method.
2) Two-thirds of state legislatures (34) can petition Congress for a convention of states to consider changes. Thirty-eight would be required to ratify changes. The last constitutional convention? It took place in 1787.
Here’s a good summation of why a convention of states is such a frightening prospect, (though I’m still rather stunned to find myself citing Speciale):
“Once a convention is called, the delegates control it and your Liberty is at risk. Who would you send with enough knowledge to protect your freedoms? I don’t support this, we don’t need it and it is unnecessary,” he wrote last April in the online comments section of NC Capital Connection.
Well said, sir. Well said. Heaven knows what convention members might do with such heady powers, if given the ability to tinker with the U.S. Constitution.
Last week, by a 53-59 vote, the House turned down a resolution to join 12 other states who have formally requested this convention of the states.
There’s a reason I’m writing this column now, however.
Because, before you get too excited by House members’ unexpected show of sense, in the next breath, they voted 66-45 to allow further consideration of the resolution. Speaker Tim Moore (a supporter of the Convention of States Project) has indicated the resolution could come back for another vote.
For its part, the N.C. Senate approved the resolution in April.
Six House representatives, only a handful of votes, stood between us and (still more) lunacy. And, if we’ve learned nothing else in the wake of the last election, nothing is too whacky, too farfetched or too bizarre to gain traction.
I suggest keeping a watchful eye upon the Convention of States Project – I know I will.
Quintin Ellison is editor of the Sylva Herald.