GOP explores constitutional convention strategy as ‘last line of defense’ against runaway government

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In what is admittingly a “last line of defense” to an out-of-control federal government, albeit a far-reaching endeavor, some Republican lawmakers are looking at a renewed push for a constitutional convention.

State lawmakers met last week at the ’s policy conference in San Diego, falling back on Article V of the Constitution, which allows state legislatures to call a convention to propose new amendments, with the hope of creating a balanced budget amendment and establishing term limits for members of Congress, The Hill reported.

The convention is supported by Iowa Republican state Rep. John Wills, the state’s House Speaker pro tempore, who sees it as perhaps the last remaining option to thwart a runaway federal government.

“It’s really the last line of defense that we have. Right now, the federal government’s run away. They’re not going to pull their own power back. They’re not going to restrict themselves. And so this Article V convention is really, in my opinion, is the last option that we have,” said Iowa state Rep. John Wills (R), the state’s House Speaker pro tempore who backs the convention.

There’s a long way to go to get there, though — here’s more on the current status from The Hill:

At least two-thirds of states must pass a call to force a convention; so far, 15 states have passed the model legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group that backs free markets and states’ rights.

Bills have passed at least one legislative chamber in another nine states, and bills have been introduced in 17 more states. The 15 states that have passed measures so far all have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors; another nine states totally controlled by the GOP have yet to finalize passage, according to Convention of States Action, a project of the conservative group Citizens for Self-Governance.


A countering concern is that should a constitutional convention be achieved, there’s no telling what changes may emerge from the effort — suffice it to say, there aren’t many James Madisons and Thomas Jeffersons in our midst these days.

Congress would set the initial rules for any such convention, with the constitution stating that any proposed amendments would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states to take effect — a tall task given today’s polarization.

“It’s a very high bar, very difficult to do,” said Republican Stuart Adams, president of the Utah state Senate and ALEC’s chairman.

As noted in the article, Article V leaves much open to interpretation and it’s unclear whether a constitutional convention must be limited to narrow or specific topics. All which leaves open the possibility that the entire effort could go rogue.

“Congress can purport to make whatever rules it wants for the convention. The convention can then throw them in the trash, which is certainly what the convention in Philadelphia did in 1787,” David Super, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown Law, told The Hill. “There’s no guarantee they will follow the ratification procedures. The only precedent we do have, they didn’t follow the ratification procedures.”

In addition to the 15 GOP-controlled states who have passed legislation, five Democratic-led states have approved calls for a convention focused on campaign finance reform: Vermont, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Tom Tillison


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