Article V Convention; Unintended Consequences
Gov. Abbott has some good legislative intentions, but his duty is to execute the laws of Texas, not create them. In his list of “emergency” legislative items he includes a “convention of states”, more properly recognized as an Art V convention.
Proponents to the Art. V convention claim that Art. V was intended to rein in a rogue federal government. Opponents claim that Art. VI is the correct tool for this purpose.
One specific bill, SJR2 (Birdwell), will grant broad and vague instructions on proposed amendments; “…to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to limit the terms of office of federal officials and members of Congress”. Already this year, 5 other states have defeated these bills (Wyoming, Arkansas, South Dakota, Virginia, and Montana). In Montana, the author of the bill had a change of heart (Feb 15, 2017) and asked that his bill be killed. May 2016, Delaware successfully rescinded all previous applications for an Art V convention. In Texas Sen. Estes has filed such a bill: SJR 38 and deserves passage.
Texas legislators must consider the unintended consequences of their actions. The special interest group, “Convention of States Project”, held a “simulated” Art V convention in Sept. last year, using SJR2 (Birdwell) as the instructions for amendments to propose. The simulation proved precisely why such a convention could produce unintended consequences.
The Convention of States Project Art V “simulated” convention was attended by 137 invitation-only delegates from 50 states. Of those, 4 were Democrats and 133 were Republicans, most of whom were state legislators and authors of Art V convention applications. Even with 96% Republican participation in this simulation, the Republicans managed to unintentionally expand, not restrict, the powers of the federal government through their 3 proposed amendments.
Under the instruction “impose fiscal restraints”, the simulated convention proposed to repeal the limited taxing in Art I sec. 8 of the constitution, and grant Congress the power to tax anything, thus legitimizing what Congress has been doing for 100+ years. In addition, they unintentionally expanded the power of the President and the administrative agencies, weakening the powers of the several states under the charge “to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government”.
Under the charge “limit the terms of office“ the simulated convention proposed extending the “lame duck session” from 1 month to 2 years in the US House and 6 years in the US Senate, effectively telling Congress that in their last term they are not accountable to their constituents.
Identifying the Wrong Problem Produces the Wrong Solution
If words on paper could control a tyrant, the current constitution would have done that. Gov. Abbott admits that the problem is not with our constitution by stating on his website: “The Constitution itself is not broken. What is broken is our Nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution and to hold our leaders accountable to it.” Proposing to amend the constitution until it is broken is not the solution. Why would more words on paper control a government that ignores the current constitution? The Founders proposed Art VI to be the solution to a rogue government, and Art V to correct errors in the constitution.
There are literally hundreds of special interest groups with their own proposed amendments. Assuming that Republican-controlled states will propose “conservative” amendments has been discounted through the “simulated” convention. We want to thank them for demonstrating precisely what opponents to the Art V convention have been saying for decades; amending the constitution is not the solution. The constitution IS the solution! Let’s enforce this constitution, first. Then see what America looks like.