Wrong time for convention of states movement

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tennessee earlier this year became the fifth state to adopt a resolution that would call for a convention of states in hopes of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.
The move comes after the House of Representatives voted 59-31 in favor of a resolution that proponents say is limited in nature.
The resolution, drafted by the Convention of the States Project, seeks to do three things: “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.”
Lawmakers spent nearly an hour debating the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and co-sponsored by 58 others.
The conversation included discussion on topics such as the money the federal government allocates to Tennessee, marijuana, the “atomic bomb of politics” and voting rights.
Before Tennessee’s vote, four other states — Alaska, Alabama, Florida and Georgia — had previously passed an identical resolution. Dozens of other states are considering taking similar action this year.
All of the issues Tennessee lawmakers gave as their reasons for favoring the call for a convention of states are legitimate. The burgeoning federal debt is an issue that is too often ignored in Washington.
However, a constitutional convention is the wrong way to approach it. What would likely come out of such a convention is a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. The government should strive to not spend more than it takes in, but it shouldn’t be a constitutional requirement.
There are times when deficit spending is in the best interests of the country, such as during wars or recessions. The government needs to have the ability to respond to emergencies.
A much better approach is to elect senators and representatives who take the debt seriously and will look for ways to reduce government spending and adopt policies that spur the economy.
In the same way, the ballot box is the appropriate way to remove a senator or representative from Congress. It’s best to leave it up to the voters to determine whether someone has been in office too long, rather than to enact term limits that remove good representatives as well as the bad.
It really should be up to the voters to decide if someone has become so entrenched in Washington that it would be better to have a new person serve.
In addition, there is the concern that a convention of states wouldn’t be bound by the topics listed and could veer off into other areas. America’s Constitution has rarely been amended in the past 240 years. That is because issues are better addressed through legislation that can more easily be revised if needed, rather than by a constitutional amendment.
Under Article V of the Constitution, 34 states would be needed to adopt the resolution in order to trigger a convention. The clause in the Constitution is one that state lawmakers and organizations have been pushing in state legislatures around the country in recent years.
Any amendment to the Constitution would have to be ratified by 38 states, which is three-fourths of the 50 states.
With the division seen in the country right now, this is not the time for such a convention. It is better to have one in a time of unity when there is a clear consensus on what should be added to the Constitution.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox