“I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for their reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” –
Thomas Jefferson. Source: letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Americans fed up with expanding federal debt, officially at $14 trillion, may soon revive Jefferson’s wish and address it without begging to Congress.
The National Debt Relief Amendment, with legislative sponsors in 10 states, is rapidly advancing towards being the first state-initiated constitutional amendment since ratification. The NDRA, promoted by RestoringFreedom.org, reads:
“An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate States.”
While state leaders have Article V authority for an amendments convention, thus far they have failed to reach the two-thirds initiation threshold. All 27 amendments have gone through Congress before ratification by three fourths of the states.
With the North Dakota Senate’s bipartisan passage of the NDRA resolution (SCR 4007) on February 22, and with Arizona and Missouri soon to vote, momentum is building for that precedent to end.
Legislators from Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah have also committed to introducing the same resolution in their legislatures. And the nation’s largest nonpartisan association of state legislators, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has endorsed the NDRA and prepared model legislation.
James Booth, cofounder of RestoringFreedom.org, asserts bipartisan support and that, based on current momentum, the NDRA will become an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He anticipates that at least five state legislatures will pass such resolutions in their next sessions.
“The necessity and appropriateness of the amendment has been self-evident to almost all who have reviewed it,” he says. “In just 18 non-partisan words it addresses the run-away federal debt, restores a portion of our federalist system of government, and creates a broad national dialogue and consensus over the use of our children’s and grandchildren’s resources.”
He also notes the Jeffersonian origin of a “missing” amendment against federal debt.
“I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our constitution … taking from the federal government the power of borrowing,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798.
Watch Arizona NDRA proponents:
The primary opposition does not appear to be against fiscal restraint; already 49 of the 50 states have their own form of balanced budget constraint. Rather, it is concern over targeting of resources and the uncertainties of an Article V convention.
G. Edward Griffin, founder of Freedom Force International, says the federal debt problem is “huge.” But he sees pleas to “spending maniacs” as futile.
“The solution is to replace the maniacs with real constitutionalists … new legislation or amendments are not necessary. In fact, they are a diversion. All that is necessary is to stop the spending. We don’t need words on a piece of paper for that. What we need are honorable and intelligent legislators … If we can’t produce them, there is no hope whatsoever.”
Matthew Spalding, a constitutional scholar with the Heritage Foundation, describes the yet-to-occur, convention process as dubious and unpredictable, lacking clear lines of authority and vulnerable to continuous litigation.
“The idea that we can and should actually hold such a convention – that it is an easy and pretty straightforward matter – is wildly mistaken and distracts us from the focus of achieving a constitutional amendment.”
Even if the NDRA were successful, Sheila Weinberg of the Institute for Truth in Accounting says it would need to consider true federal debt. She equates that to “at the very least $56 trillion” – $183,000 for every man, woman, and child – including Social Security and Medical liabilities.
“Congress amasses debt by increasing entitlement programs’ liabilities without even calculating these costs … We cannot really address our debt issues until we understand our true financial condition.”
To resolve the variety of concerns, the Goldwater Institute, an independent, Arizona-based policy institute, has been hosting educational events and publishing research on the constitutional convention process.
Booth supports Goldwater’s work and sees education as a vital part of the process.
“Once the facts are presented and the old myths surrounding the process are swept away, people become supporters,” he says.