A major presidential candidate and the governor of one of America’s largest states want to rewrite the US Constitution to limit the federal government.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a presidential candidate, each want a “Convention of the States,” or what some would call another Constitutional Convention.
“The irony for our generation is that the threat to our Republic doesn’t come just from foreign enemies, it comes, in part, from our very own leaders,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation on January 8. Abbott believes that rewriting the Constitution is the only way to limit a federal government that is out of control.
Rubio has made similar statements.
“One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office is I will put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states,” Rubio said at campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa, on December 28. “You know why? Because that is the only way that we are ever going to get term limits on members of Congress or the judiciary and that is the only way we are ever going to get a balanced-budget amendment.”
Convention Could Rewrite Constitution
There are two ways to propose amendments to the US Constitution: by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a Constitutional Convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures, according to the National Archives. The amendments would then have to be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures — 38 states.
(Listen to both sides of the debate in a special Off The Grid Radio episode here.)
Rubio and Abbott support a state-led Constitutional Convention in part because they believe it would be impossible to get two-thirds of Congress to send an amendment to the states. No such Convention has been held since 1787.
USA Today’s editorial board criticized the proposal, which, according to Rubio and Abbott, would be limited in its topics. Critics say that is not allowed under the US Constitution.
“A convention would be impossible to control,” an editorial in the newspaper read. “Nothing in the Constitution gives Congress or the Supreme Court the power to tell the conventioneers what to do, or not do. A convention might be tasked to draft a balanced budget amendment and then decide that it wants to radically change the nature of the federal government or its relationship with the states. It might take up a passion of the moment by, say, limiting immigration by nationality or religious affiliation. It would have nearly unfettered powers to tinker with the DNA of America’s 240-year-old democracy.”
Abbott offered a list of nine proposed Constitutional Amendments he thinks would check the federal government’s power. They are:
- Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
- Require Congress to balance its budget.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
- Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
The idea of holding a second Constitutional Convention has been gaining traction on both sides of the political aisle. A number of state legislatures, including that in Alabama, have endorsed a plan put forward by a group called Citizens for Self Governance, which Abbott also supports.
“The increasingly frequent departures from Constitutional principles are destroying the Rule of Law foundation on which this country was built,” Abbott said. “We are succumbing to the caprice of man that our Founders fought to escape. The cure to these problems will not come from Washington D.C. Instead, the states must lead the way.”
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