States, would you like to meet together, agree to a strategy and then give marching orders to Washington? No hearings in Congress needed or even allowed. No input from Beltway lobbyists. No agency influence permitted.
Would you like to see terms limits enacted? How about a ban on taxpayer money going overseas? Perhaps a move to disband and deconstruct federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education that have no foundation in the Constitution?
Sound interesting? It’s constitutional, and it’s being pursued and promoted by an organization called Convention of the States.
The organization describes itself as ” project of citizens for self-government.”
Its head, Michael Farris, the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and chancellor of Patrick Henry College, goes through the specifics on its website.
First, the need.
“Washington, D.C., is utterly broken. Washington, D.C., will never voluntarily relinquish power,” he writes. “If we allow Washington, D.C., to continue on its current course of big government it will utterly destroy American liberty. Debt is the most tangible method of destruction. But big government complete with spying on the American public, the improper use of executive orders, over-regulation, etc., etc., will most certainly destroy American liberty relatively soon.”
Trying to elect more conservatives hasn’t worked, and there really shouldn’t be a fear that the Constitution would be opened up to destruction. the organization says. After all, it explains, any change would have to be approved by votes in 38 states.
“The Founders gave us Article V for the very purpose of creating structural change when the federal government abuses its power,” Farris says. “State legislatures control this process from beginning to end. Governors are irrelevant. Congress can only name the time and place. State legislature name the delegates and give them their instructions.”
Since 38 state would have to ratify changes, “the idea that anything crazy could make it through that process is simply untenable,” he says.
“We will either get good amendments or we will get nothing,” he said. “The people who must approve the work product – state legislatures – are the ones who name the delegates. They are also the ones who give the convention its subject matter.”
Would anyone be interested in the idea of removing federal officials?
“State legislatures currently have no power to impeach federal officials from their states. This is not a viable option. This would, however, be a proper amendment to suggest at the Convention of States we are proposing. I like the idea of giving the state governments the power to impeach congressman and senators from their states,” Farris says.
Another possibility? “The federal courts regularly refuse to rule on constitutional issues they want to avoid by calling them ‘political questions’ or by claiming that no one has standing to sue … One of my ideas for an amendment would be to automatically grant state legislatures standing to challenge any action of the federal government as violating its constitutional limitations,” he said.
There also could be a fix to the problem of an entrenched Supreme Court.
“I [would] propose reconfiguring the Supreme Court after the model of the European Court of Human Rights. There are 46 nations in that court’s jurisdiction, and every nation appoints one judge. We should expand the Supreme Court to 50 justices and have the states appoint the justices for a specific term (6 or 8 years) with no right of reappointment. That one change would do more to ensure a constitutional government than anything I know,” Farris says.
The Convention of States Project was launched by Citizens for Self Governance and is working to have state lawmakers call such a convention through the Constitution’s Article V.
Thousands of Americans already have signed on in support of the idea that Americans, themselves, need to address Washington’s outsized spending habit ($17 trillion in debt), untold regulations for everyone from lemonade stand operators to nonprofits, the attacks from Washington on states rights and the “federal takeover of the decision-making process.”
“Who decides what the law shall be is even more important than what is decided. The protection of liberty requires a strict adherence to the principle that power is limited and delegated,” the organization explains.
Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged the federal government has overreached, stating in a 1992 case: “The federal government undertakes activities today that would have been unimaginable to the Framers in two senses; first, because the Framers would not have conceived that any government would conduct such activities; and second, because the Framers would not have believed that the federal government, rather than the states, would assume such responsibilities.”