Monday, February 28, 2011

A Con-Con is Unwise and Unnecessary

A Texas Senate Resolution calling for a United States Constitutional Convention to add a balanced budget amendment has moved forward, with the Committee Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 1 (CSSJR) being adopted by the following vote:

Yeas:  24;  Nays:  7.

Yeas:  Carona, Davis, Deuell, Duncan, Ellis, Eltife, Fraser, Harris, Hegar, Hinojosa, Huffman, Jackson, Nichols, Ogden, Patrick, Seliger, Shapiro, Uresti, Watson, Wentworth, West, Whitmire, Williams, Zaffirini.

Nays:  Birdwell, Estes, Gallegos, Lucio, Nelson, Rodriguez, VanideiPutte.

Those Senators who voted against CSSJR1 expressed their concerns regarding the process and scope of a Constitutional Convention.  You may read their remarks in the online senate journal -

Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst made the following statements:

Governor Perry:

I applaud the Texas Senate for taking this important step to reign [sic] in Washington's out-of-control spending, which has put our country on a collision course with economic disaster. We must insist on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so Washington will be required to exercise the same fiscal restraint that sensible businesses and families have long employed. I look forward to working with members of the Texas House who share the goal of a federal balanced budget amendment to put the U.S. back on the path to fiscal responsibility.
Lt. Governor Dewhurst:
With a current national debt of $14.1 trillion and a federal budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, taxpayers literally cannot afford to wait any longer for Washington to put their fiscal house in order. The resolution passed by the Texas Senate today is intended to apply pressure on Congress to take prompt action on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and protect taxpayers from the runaway spending that has plagued Washington for decades.
Historically, the threat of an Article V convention has proved effective in pushing Congress to adopt important Constitutional Amendments such as the Bill of Rights and the direct election of Senators. In the unlikely event that an Article V convention is convened, the Texas Senate included certain safeguards in the resolution, but the ultimate protection is that any amendment to the Constitution requires ratification by three-fourths of the states as well as the overwhelming support of the American people.
While we all want to see our federal government operate within a balanced budget, calls for a Constitutional Convention are unwise and unnecessary.  There is no limit to the scope of a Con-Con.  Article 5 of the Constitution provides for the more conservative approach which entails Congress proposing the amendment and sending it to the states for ratification.  (See below.)

HCR 18, which is scheduled for a hearing on March 3, urges Congress to propose and submit a balanced budget amendment.  It does not include the language of the senate version which calls for a constitutional convention.  

HJR 60, which is also scheduled for a March 3 hearing, does call for a constitutional convention.

HJR 81 has also been referred to the State Sovereignty Committee, and it calls for a constitutional convention to provide for term limits, line-item veto, balanced federal budget, limit on federal debt, and the repeal of federal law by two-thirds of the several states.  These are commendable ideas which can also be proposed by Congress, ratified by the states without calling for a convention.  

It is important that you express your opposition to a constitutional convention to your elected representative, and to the committee members of the House Committee on State Sovereignty (Creighton, Martinez-Fischer, Branch, Darby, Sid Miller, Pitts, Thompson).  Let them know that you oppose any call for a constitutional convention, regardless of the reason or proposed amendments.  Remind them that were a Con-Con to be convened, there is no mechanism in place to limit the scope of Amendments proposed.  

Never before in the history of our country has a constitutional convention been convened in order to amend the constitution.  There are two methods by which an amendment to the constitution can be passed.  These are spelled out in Article 5:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

The first method requires Congress to pass a bill by a two-thirds majority in each house.  This is the way in which all current amendments were passed.  

The second method requires that two-thirds of the state legislatures call for a Convention to add amendments, which then must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.  

A constitutional convention has never before been convened, and because of the lack of specificity regarding who the delegates would be and how the scope of the convention would be defined it could very easily become a chaotic and dangerous event which would be hard to control. Because of the reality of modern-day community organizers and paid protestors, the process could also turn into a huge media event driven by special interests with a completely different agenda than the commendable addition of a balanced budget amendment.  Because of that possibility, we should ask all of our elected representatives to vote against any resolutions calling for a constitutional convention.

The RPT Platform opposes a Constitutional Convention:

Constitutional Convention—“We oppose any constitutional convention to re-write the United States Constitution. We demand the Legislature rescind the 1977 call for such a convention. We call upon other states to rescind their votes for such a convention.”

A Constitutional Convention is unwise and unnecessary.

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