State legislators across the nation have called for a convention of states to amend the Constitution without passing through Congress. This convention, known as the Convention of States Project, has been a work in progress since 2014.
Various supporters of the plan provide a variety of reasons for the proposed convention, including the steady increase of federal power, particularly with the Biden administration. Thus far, Biden has signed fifty executive orders to date.
Senator Brian Birdwell (R-TX) has pointed out that James Madison, one of the nation’s founding fathers and architects of the Constitution, believed that state powers are generally “many and broad,” whereas federal powers are generally “few and defined.” Consequently, Birdwell has called for recalibrating the power between the federal government and individual states “to rebalance what the [founding fathers] had given us in the original document,” which includes the ability of states “to make decisions for themselves.”
The Convention of States project is a protected constitutional right, per Article V of the Constitution. According to this article, in order to hold a convention, the following two conditions must be satisfied: First, two-thirds of the nation’s states must call for a convention; secondly, three-fourths of those states will have to vote affirmatively in order to pursue amendment ratification. Whereas opponents claim that the Convention of States project could be used to rewrite the Constitution, supporters have retorted that this claim is not the case.
Per Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), the Convention of States is not interesting in “[rewriting] the Constitution.” Instead, the purpose of the convention is “to propose amendments to the [extant] Constitution.”
In other words, the Constitution will remain “precisely the way that it is,” and the Convention of States is merely “looking for just one or two points that [states] want to clarify in the Constitution,” Abbott continued.
Abbott also noted that powerful politicians in D.C. have resisted the potential addition of constitutional amendments, given that such amendments may limit their power. Consequently, several of these politicians have attempted to stoke fears through hurling about phrases such as “runaway convention.”
Nonetheless, the Convention of States project has already set forth limits on itself, namely by narrowing its scope to three major objectives pertaining to limited federal powers.
According to Rita Dunaway, who serves as the National Legislative Director of the Convention of States project, the three primary objectives are as follows: “limiting the terms of office for its officials; limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government.”
In addition, Mark Levin, a conservative radio host and political commentator, has noted that the federal government has vastly more power in terms of amending the Constitution than the Convention of States would have.
Levin remarked that “an ongoing constitutional convention” is already present in D.C., namely when one governmental branch or federal bureaucracy acts far beyond the restrictions already provided for them in the Constitution.
“Rather than the branches checking and balancing each other, they usually reinforce each other,” Levin added.
In total, 34 states are necessary to participate, and 15 states have already passed resolutions indicating their participation in the Convention of States.