Article V Amendment Convention

Discuss how we can hasten progress towards enlarging representation. There are two primary components to this: 1) educating others in order to gain the public support necessary; and, 2) ensuring implementation via a constitutional amendment.
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Article V Amendment Convention

Postby Paul » Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:01 pm

Jeff, can you write a quick blurb on how an amendment convention would work? I think it's widely understood that a Constitutional Convention is open game for congress to just rewrite everything.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:40 pm

Paul wrote:Jeff, can you write a quick blurb on how an amendment convention would work? I think it's widely understood that a Constitutional Convention is open game for congress to just rewrite everything.
Paul, that's on my list of topics for the blog. I hope to get to it this year.

I call it an "Amendment Convention" because nowhere in the Constitution does it provide for a "Constitutional Convention". Instead, Article V of the Constitution specifically states that "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, ... "

Furthermore, any amendments proposed by that convention would then need to be "ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof" in order to be ratified to the Constitution!

So the Constitution clearly states that such a convention (one called by of the states) can only propose amendments, which then could only become ratified upon approval by ¾ of the states. That ain't a Constitutional Convention!

I believe that the specter of a new "constitutional convention" is a bogeyman notion perpetuated by those who want to maintain Congress' monopoly on the amendment process by thwarting its use by we the people. It's all part of protecting the oligarchy. (We are no longer citizens; we are federal subjects.)

The prescient Founding Fathers wisely included the Article V provision to enable the citizenry (working through our state legislatures) to peacefully take back our government when the time came. Now is that time.

Well, I think I just pretty much wrote my blog posting; I need to flesh it out some more.

Having said all that, I believe that the Amendment Convention should have a single objective: to achieve citizen control of Congress by passing an amendment that establishes a maximum district size (e.g., Article the first as originally proposed on August 24, 1789). Perhaps also pursue the repeal of the 17th amendment, but nothing more! All other amendment proposals will be adequately considered by an enlarged House of Representatives. The amendment convention will fail to accomplish anything if it is a free-for-all for all sorts of amendment proposals.

When you can, please google around a little to research if anyone else has already written about this, or any other info you can find, and send me any links (or post them here if they're worthwhile).
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:24 am

I can offer some brief color on this. The 17th Amendment only happened because of this very process. The Senate had absolutely resisted popular election of Senators for quite some time. However, more and more State Legislatures chimed in that they'd like to call a convention to consider the subject, Congress relented and proposed the 17th Amendment to the States. Why? Because there was no precedent for such a convention in our nation's history. Nobody knew what it would look like, or how it would be controlled or limited to one subject (after all, the Philadelphia Convention was only supposed to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which is why there is a clever little literature on whether the U.S. Constitution is itself unconstitutional). Fear of the unknown led to the proposal (and passage) of the 17th Amendment.

What this means, though, is that if you could get enough State Legislatures to start asking for a convention on this topic, as the number approached 2/3rds, you'd get the attention of Congress and possibly force them to act.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:28 pm

HouseSizeWonk wrote:I can offer some brief color on this. ...
That's a good point you make, that attempting to convene an amendment convention may compel the Congress to action. That is another reason for advocating this course of action relative to representational enlargement.

I don't understand where this hysteria about the prospect of a "constitutional convention" comes from. The Constitution does NOT provide for a "constitutional convention"! Even if ⅔ of the states assembled to propose amendments (regardless of whether those amendments are wise or foolish), those proposed amendments would still require the approval of ¾ of the states' legislatures to be ratified to the Constitution. That is a huge hurdle!
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:47 am

I think, J.E., that you're ignoring the significance of the Philadelphia Convention. The Congress of the Confederation may have thought that it had control of the agenda, but it soon slipped away when they came back with a whole new Constitution (or, you might say, an amendment in the form of a substitute). Yes, it needed to be ratified by 9 States, but even that was something nobody saw coming; amendments had required unanimity to pass.

Say the convention proposed an amendment which had a rider clause inserted: for this amendment only, it only takes, say, 2/3rds of the State Legislatures to pass it (or something). Would that be legal? Who knows! It could be interpreted as an amendment of Article V of the Constitution. It's a bunch of legal questions nobody wants to confront.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:08 pm

HouseSizeWonk wrote:I think, J.E., that you're ignoring the significance of the Philadelphia Convention. ....
I realize that is the basis for the hobgoblin of a "constitutional convention", but that line of reasoning is absolutely specious! That would be like expressing concern that a rogue group of NFL employees could assemble somewhere and simply announce that they have established a new league that replaces the old one.

For those familiar with the history, there could be no analog with the Philadelphia convention. Without getting into all the events that led up to (and during the convention), it takes a spectacular amount of imagination to suppose that an Amendment Convention, pursuant to our Constitution, could somehow become a constitutional convention. For one thing, the delegates to the Philadelphia convention were, with respect to their actions at the convention, never explicitly bound by the provisions of an existing constitution!

The wording of Article V of our Constitution is explicit and unequivocal: an Amendment Convention can only propose amendments and, furthermore, said proposals can become amendments only if they are subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states! The Founders knew what they doing when they worded Article V. We also know that the Founders and Framers would have never wanted to provide for a "constitutional convention" as they were deeply opposed to another convention (because they believed that they had already drafted the best possible Constitution in Philadelphia). Remember, our Constitution was proposed on Sept. 17, 1787, and was not finally ratified until June 21, 1788 (at which time Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island still had NOT affirmed it). So the acceptance of that constitution was quite uncertain for at least nine months, during which time they did have reason to be concerned about the possibility of another constitutional convention undoing their great work.

With respect to re-writing our Constitution, I sincerely believe that we should focus our concern on the damage that is being done by Congress (which seems to regard itself as a standing convention for the purpose of redefining the Constitution). That is a real and present danger, not an imaginary one. If only Congress were as bound in its actions as would be an Article V Amendment Convention. That is, imagine if the laws passed by Congress then required the approval of ¾ of the states' legislatures; I believe that the net effect would be greatly beneficial for the country. The only people who should be afraid of an Amendment Convention are the congressmen who wish to preserve their monopoly on amending the Constitution.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:38 am

JEQuidam wrote: I realize that is the basis for the hobgoblin of a "constitutional convention", but that line of reasoning is absolutely specious! That would be like expressing concern that a rogue group of NFL employees could assemble somewhere and simply announce that they have established a new league that replaces the old one.

For those familiar with the history, there could be no analog with the Philadelphia convention. Without getting into all the events that led up to (and during the convention), it takes a spectacular amount of imagination to suppose that an Amendment Convention, pursuant to our Constitution, could somehow become a constitutional convention. For one thing, the delegates to the Philadelphia convention were, with respect to their actions at the convention, never explicitly bound by the provisions of an existing constitution!


This seems like a spectacular assertion. In what way was the Philadelphia Convention not bound by the provisions of an existing constitution? The Articles of Confederation were the existing constitution! And they clearly provided: "[T]he Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

Pressure for changing the Articles had been building for some time, and was first articulated at the informal Annapolis Convention of 1786. The support of Gen. Washington was sought, but he refused to go along without the sanction of the Congress of the Confederation. Due to his qualms, the Congress pass a resolution calling for a convention "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union."

Given the intransigence of several of the States (which you mention below in this post) there is little doubt in my mind that the Philadelphia Convention did not present what the Congress had in mind. It was acquiesced in by the Congress, of course, but it was not the deal they had in mind when it was called; perhaps the fact that many of the nation's greatest luminaries attended meant that it was a rising tide the Congress could not stand against. The fact that several states held out on ratifying (as you mention below) is evidence that they felt bamboozled by the process, though. And that is why a future "Amendment Convention" is resisted: there is fear that we may be bamboozled by it again.

JEQuidam wrote:The wording of Article V of our Constitution is explicit and unequivocal: an Amendment Convention can only propose amendments and, furthermore, said proposals can become amendments only if they are subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states! The Founders knew what they doing when they worded Article V. We also know that the Founders and Framers would have never wanted to provide for a "constitutional convention" as they were deeply opposed to another convention (because they believed that they had already drafted the best possible Constitution in Philadelphia). Remember, our Constitution was proposed on Sept. 17, 1787, and was not finally ratified until June 21, 1788 (at which time Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island still had NOT affirmed it). So the acceptance of that constitution was quite uncertain for at least nine months, during which time they did have reason to be concerned about the possibility of another constitutional convention undoing their great work.

With respect to re-writing our Constitution, I sincerely believe that we should focus our concern on the damage that is being done by Congress (which seems to regard itself as a standing convention for the purpose of redefining the Constitution). That is a real and present danger, not an imaginary one. If only Congress were as bound in its actions as would be an Article V Amendment Convention. That is, imagine if the laws passed by Congress then required the approval of ¾ of the states' legislatures; I believe that the net effect would be greatly beneficial for the country. The only people who should be afraid of an Amendment Convention are the congressmen who wish to preserve their monopoly on amending the Constitution.


You emphasize what Article V of the Constitution says. But I don't know why that matters any more or less than what Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation said. And Article XIII (requiring unanimous consent for ratifying amendments) was ignored by Article VII of the U.S. Constitution (ratification of 9 out of 13 makes it effective as between the 9; did that mean they seceded from the "perpetual" union?). I don't understand why it's "specious" to say it could happen again.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:24 pm

HouseSizeWonk wrote:This seems like a spectacular assertion. In what way was the Philadelphia Convention not bound by the provisions of an existing constitution? The Articles of Confederation were the existing constitution! And they clearly provided: "[T]he Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

Let's focus on this aspect first, then we can return to any other points you think I missed. Even relative to the excerpt you provide above, did they not meet that requirement? That is, that "such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State"? Granted, the "agreed to in a Congress" was more tacit than explicit, but certainly the new Constitution was "confirmed by the legislatures of every State". And bear in mind that the term "alteration" is ambiguous, unlike Article V's "amendment".

But that is a digression! Let's return to my argument: the Articles of Confederation did not have the language that is provided by Article V of our Constitution, to wit: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments ". I assume that you agree that the language of Article V explicitly and unambiguously defines the process by which an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed and then affirmed. There is no way to interpret that any differently than what it plainly states. Title V only permits amendments to be proposed, and any amendments so proposed (whether by Congress or by an amendment convention) would not be binding unless they were subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states' legislatures. I believe that the Framers made this language precise in order to prevent another such convention as was permitted by the ambiguous language of the Articles of Confederation!

In conclusion, the only way I would be concerned about a modern runaway convention would be if the language of Title V of the Constitution were replaced with "nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in this Constitution unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State". That language fails to provide a defined process for making "alterations" to the Constitution and does not define "alteration".
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:02 pm

JEQuidam wrote:
HouseSizeWonk wrote:This seems like a spectacular assertion. In what way was the Philadelphia Convention not bound by the provisions of an existing constitution? The Articles of Confederation were the existing constitution! And they clearly provided: "[T]he Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

Let's focus on this aspect first, then we can return to any other points you think I missed. Even relative to the excerpt you provide above, did they not meet that requirement? That is, that "such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State"? Granted, the "agreed to in a Congress" was more tacit than explicit, but certainly the new Constitution was "confirmed by the legislatures of every State". And bear in mind that the term "alteration" is ambiguous, unlike Article V's "amendment".

But that is a digression! Let's return to my argument: the Articles of Confederation did not have the language that is provided by Article V of our Constitution, to wit: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments ". I assume that you agree that the language of Article V explicitly and unambiguously defines the process by which an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed and then affirmed. There is no way to interpret that any differently than what it plainly states. Title V only permits amendments to be proposed, and any amendments so proposed (whether by Congress or by an amendment convention) would not be binding unless they were subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states' legislatures. I believe that the Framers made this language precise in order to prevent another such convention as was permitted by the ambiguous language of the Articles of Confederation!

In conclusion, the only way I would be concerned about a modern runaway convention would be if the language of Title V of the Constitution were replaced with "nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in this Constitution unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State". That language fails to provide a defined process for making "alterations" to the Constitution and does not define "alteration".


The key difference is that the Articles of Confederation contained a dissenter's veto: any changes to the Articles of Confederation had to be unanimous. But the U.S. Constitution was effective when ratified by only 9 out of 13 States. That effectively amended the unanimity requirement. You have several times in your post appeared to invoke the historical fact that the U.S. Constitution was, in fact, ratified by every State. But that was only because they were strongarmed into it: the proposal nullified their dissenter's veto by making the new Constitution effective on the ratification of only 9 out of 13. Granted, it was only effective as between the 9, but it was still a substitute Constitution. And, the Supreme Court has said that secession is unconstitutional: as the Supreme Court said in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 700, 725–26 (1869), "[W]hen the[] Articles [of Confederation] were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not? . . . The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States. When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution, or through consent of the States."

So, of course the few dissenters ratified the Constitution: they had no choice in the matter, because the Articles of Confederation had been amended out from underneath their feet. They would have been left with a "country" of 2 or 3 States under the Articles of Confederation, which in itself would have been unconstitutional since, as the Court recognized in Texas, secession from a perpetual union is invalid. There were a variety of limitations placed on the Philadelphia Convention, which it proceeded to ignore in ways which were pretty clearly illegal at the time but which have since been ratified by history. But the fact that they were subsequently ratified by history is no reason to think that a future convention would not exceed the limits placed upon it as well.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:45 pm

HouseSizeWonk wrote:You have several times in your post appeared to invoke the historical fact that the U.S. Constitution was, in fact, ratified by every State. But that was only because they were strongarmed into it: the proposal nullified their dissenter's veto by making the new Constitution effective on the ratification of only 9 out of 13. Granted, it was only effective as between the 9, but it was still a substitute Constitution.
I'm no historian, but here's what I do know: state #10 was Virginia (June 25, 1788) and New York ratified one month later. Those two states were the silver backed gorillas in the collection of states and NOBODY could strong arm them into ratifying the Constitution! Had those two states refused, the whole deal would have then either unraveled or the Constitution's promoters would have promised any additional amendments necessary (in the anticipated Bill of Rights) to bring NY and VA into the fold. In fact, I'm confident that it was the promised amendments, including "Article the first" that did indeed ultimately induce VA and NY to ratify. In any case, it is clear from the historical accounts that the viability of the Constitution was still quite precarious even after those first nine states affirmed it.

However, there is probably no point debating that history as it is not directly relevant to the main argument in my prior posting. Allow me to repeat it: the Articles of Confederation did not have the language that is provided by Article V of our Constitution, to wit: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments ". I assume that you agree that the language of Article V explicitly and unambiguously defines the process by which an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed and then affirmed. There is no way to interpret that any differently than what it plainly states. Title V only permits amendments to be proposed, and any amendments so proposed (whether by Congress or by an amendment convention) would not be binding unless they were subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states' legislatures. I believe that the Framers made this language precise in order to prevent another such convention as was permitted by the ambiguous language of the Articles of Confederation!
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:53 pm

JEQuidam wrote:I'm no historian, but here's what I do know: state #10 was Virginia (June 25, 1788) and New York ratified one month later. Those two states were the silver backed gorillas in the collection of states and NOBODY could strong arm them into ratifying the Constitution! Had those two states refused, the whole deal would have then either unraveled or the Constitution's promoters would have promised any additional amendments necessary (in the anticipated Bill of Rights) to bring NY and VA into the fold. In fact, I'm confident that it was the promised amendments, including "Article the first" that did indeed ultimately induce VA and NY to ratify. In any case, it is clear from the historical accounts that the viability of the Constitution was still quite precarious even after those first nine states affirmed it.

However, there is probably no point debating that history as it is not directly relevant to the main argument in my prior posting. Allow me to repeat it: the Articles of Confederation did not have the language that is provided by Article V of our Constitution, to wit: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments ". I assume that you agree that the language of Article V explicitly and unambiguously defines the process by which an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed and then affirmed. There is no way to interpret that any differently than what it plainly states. Title V only permits amendments to be proposed, and any amendments so proposed (whether by Congress or by an amendment convention) would not be binding unless they were subsequently affirmed by ¾ of the states' legislatures. I believe that the Framers made this language precise in order to prevent another such convention as was permitted by the ambiguous language of the Articles of Confederation!


The key dissenters I'm referring to are North Carolina and Rhode Island, who did not ratify the Constitution until Nov. 21, 1789, and May 29, 1790, respectively. In Rhode Island, which had been sitting on the sidelines for over a year while the new government came into operation and started making decisions without Rhode Island's input, the decision to ratify was decided on a 34-32 vote. It is quite clear that both of them, and Rhode Island in particular, did not want to ratify the U.S. Constitution and preferred the Articles of Confederation instead. And, under the unambiguous language of Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation, which set up a "perpetual" union between the 13 States, either one of them was entitled to a dissenter's veto because amendments were to be unanimous, but that dissenter's veto was nullified when it had already become effective on the ratification of 9 States (plus 2 more). So, when New York ratified and you're sitting on 11 out of 13 having ratified it, and it's an effective document as between those 11, they have either (a) apparently seceded from the "perpetual" union under the Articles of Confederation, which everybody agrees is unconstitutional (and, as I noted in the quote from Texas v. White, the Supreme Court even pointed to that language from the Articles of Confederation to reach such a conclusion), or (b) "amended" the Articles of Confederation (an amendment in the form of a substitute) in violation of Article XIII. Either way, they're in violation of the clear, unambiguous language of the Articles of Confederation.

So yes, I absolutely agree that Article V of the U.S. Constitution is unambiguous. But I fail to see how the example of the Philadelphia Convention and the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution stops a convention from proposing something with its own ratification rules. If an amendment convention proposed an all-new Constitution (an amendment in the form of a substitute), that would be clearly outside of its mandate in much the same way that an all-new Constitution was outside the mandate of the Philadelphia Convention; yet the Philadelphia Convention got away with it. Even if an amendment convention stayed within its mandate and proposed on-point amendments/alterations to the Constitution, nothing stops it from attaching language to that proposal that says it is effective when ratified by, say, 2/3rds of the State Legislatures, in exactly the same way that the U.S. Constitution became effective on the ratification of 9/13 States instead of 13/13.

So, to repeat: I agree that Article V of the U.S. Constitution is absolutely unambiguous. However, I think that Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation was just as unambiguous. Just to be clear, this is what it said: "nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made . . . unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State." Now, while it is true that the U.S. Constitution was eventually confirmed by every State, it was not confirmed by the legislature of every State; instead, Article VII required that a special convention be called to consider the question in each State. And, moreover, the proposed Constitution did not consider itself bound by the rule that it had to be confirmed by every State; it only needed to be confirmed by 9/13, which nullified the dissenter's vetoes that properly belonged to North Carolina and Rhode Island, leaving them little choice but to ratify it if they wanted a voice at the table (which they eventually did, after lengthy hold-outs). This language seems just as clear and unambiguous to me as Article V of the U.S. Constitution; if it could be disregarded (and I think it's clear to see that it was), what's stopping a future convention from disregarding Article V?
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:31 am

Here's a Wall Street Journal editorial about the need for an amendment convention:
The States Can Check Washington's Power (Dec 21, 2009)
by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

From the article:
The gain will be substantial. Although it seems that permitting the states to propose amendments is a small thing, especially because ratification would still require three-fourths of the states to agree, it would shift the power calculus—and create a potential for action that the president, Congress and courts could never ignore as they consider the proper boundaries of their own authority.

Moreover, the effort to enable the states to check Washington's power would provide a constructive outlet for much of the growing anger—specially evident in phenomena such as the "tea party" movement—toward the political elites of both parties. It is not a partisan proposal and is difficult to oppose. The purpose is to move significant authority closer to the electorate, but in a measured, "conservative" manner that is in no sense "populist."
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby Pseudolus » Sun Jul 04, 2010 9:24 am

Isn't the whole concern over a new Constitution being created from an Amendment Convention somewhat moot? It's a necessary risk and severely unlikely to result in a new Constitution getting passed by completing disregarding the rules of the former, despite the precedent of the Articles of Confederation.

I'm more concerned about starting a topic on what the new Apportionment Amendment should actually say. Why isn't there a topic where we debate the wording and debate the realistic nature of jumping immediately from 435 to 6000+ Representatives? And why can't I create a topic on it?

Let's get to discussing the actual wording of a new Apportionment Amendment!
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Sun Jul 04, 2010 10:14 am

Pseudolus wrote:Isn't the whole concern over a new Constitution being created from an Amendment Convention somewhat moot?
I understand your point, but here is why it's not moot: many people labor under the misconception that Article V of the Constitution authorizes some sort of "constitutional convention" when it fact it does no such thing. This misperception is fostered by propaganda and hysteria and it needs to be overcome before we will see any progress towards getting the states to call an Article V amendment convention.

Pseudolus wrote: Why isn't there a topic where we debate the wording and debate the realistic nature of jumping immediately from 435 to 6000+ Representatives?
Now that you point that out, I hadn't thought about it because (from my perspective) that amendment has already been drafted! It was proposed by the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789 (see page 6 of "Taking Back Our Republic"). I believe that for many people, it will be more credible to start with what was intended as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, rather than starting anew. Do you disagree? (I'm not opposed to creating an area in the forum for this discussion if you think it necessary.)
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby Pseudolus » Sun Jul 04, 2010 5:40 pm

JEQuidam wrote:
Pseudolus wrote: Why isn't there a topic where we debate the wording and debate the realistic nature of jumping immediately from 435 to 6000+ Representatives?
Now that you point that out, I hadn't thought about it because (from my perspective) that amendment has already been drafted! It was proposed by the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789 (see page 6 of "Taking Back Our Republic"). I believe that for many people, it will be more credible to start with what was intended as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, rather than starting anew. Do you disagree? (I'm not opposed to creating an area in the forum for this discussion if you think it necessary.)


I think after we get people involved through an education of Article the First, they are going to want it approved. As we can guess, no present state legislature is going to approve the joint House & Senate version of the amendment since it admittedly is mathematically incongruous. The original House version, though mathematically correct, seems so drastic an increase that to enact it overnight may cause a societal-wide panic and/or may cause otherwise supportive legislators to dismiss the Apportionment Amendment as a joke. Furthermore, all experience dictates that, should there be enough support for ratification, the wording of the Apportionment Amendment will still be hotly debated by today's legislators regardless of what was originally proposed by the House in 1789.

It's my firm belief that we should start this wording debate with known supporters of the Apportionment Amendment before we're caught unawares by non-supporters, a dismissive public, and or those who have other proposals. It's best we know as many arguments as we can in advance so we know how to respond.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby Pseudolus » Sun Jul 04, 2010 6:55 pm

I'm of the opinion that, in order to protect the United States government from drifting into oligarchy, an Amendment Convention actually needs to ratify not only a simple Apportionment Amendment, but a complete short list of Amendments specifically designed to prevent oligarchy and protect individual liberty. I call these Amendments the Liberty List and have started a Facebook Group to discuss and draft these amendments. Anyone who is interested should check it out on Facebook, just search for The Liberty List under Facebook Groups. (There's also a Facebook Page for The Liberty List, but that Page will not display all the nitty-gritty drafting; it will more or less be a way for the Liberty List, once completed, to be submitted from the Group to the general public for their inspection and approval.)

Obviously, only the Apportionment Amendment should be discussed in this forum; but for those who are curious, the current amendments I'd like to debate for inclusion in the Liberty List are:
    1) an Apportionment Amendment, which will increase representation in the House
    2) a Repeal of the 17th Amendment, which will stabilize the Senate while keeping them dedicated to their States rather than their parties and campaign contributors
    3) a Freedom of Autonomy Amendment, which will protect individuals from the overreach of government via the Commerce Clause
    4) a Freedom of Voice Amendment, which would alter our present plurality-based voting system to make it less susceptible to Duverger's Law yet still avoiding the flaws of a strict approval-based voting system, thereby maximizing choice while maintaining stability

    5) possibly a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would further help prevent governmental overreach and oppression
    6) possibly a Repeal of the Income Tax Amendment
    7) possibly a Fair Tax Amendment, which would repeal the 16th Amendment and insure that the government treats all citizens equally and fairly though they may ultimately be required to pay different sums of taxes
    8) possibly an Identical Treatment Amendment, which would prevent Congress from passing a law that does not equally apply to the members of government themselves as it does to all citizens
    9) possibly a Ratification Amendment, which would more clearly lay out the way in which an Amendment Convention would convene and operate so as to prevent the threat of an entirely new Constitutional Convention resulting in state succession and/or state coercion

There may be more, and the list may most certainly be consolidated; but that's my jumping off point for things to discuss at an Amendment Convention.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby JEQuidam » Mon Jul 05, 2010 12:23 pm

Pseudolus wrote:...the current amendments I'd like to debate for inclusion in the Liberty List are..
Pseudolus, that’s quite a list! Speaking for myself, I don’t have the time to engage in discussion of other amendment proposals and, more importantly, I am not knowledgeable enough to take a firm position on most of them one way or the other.

Not to discourage you, but this probably isn’t the best forum for engaging in discussion on a wide ranging list of possible amendments. There are other organizations with a broader mission relative to an Article V convention and you may find those to be more conducive to such a debate. Here are two that I’m aware of:
Friends of the Article V Convention also on Facebook.
Convention USA also on Facebook.

That’s my short answer. Below is an elaboration of my views which probably nobody will read, but I’ll put them on the record anyway. That allows me to reference it in response to any future questions. (Some of my postings are like reusable code objects that I can evoke when someone asks the question again.)

I advocate the following two constitutional amendments:
1) Article the first as originally proposed by the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789
2) Repeal of the 17th Amendment

The effect of both of these proposals is to return to the original intent of the Founders with respect to representation in Congress. Thirty-Thousand.org (TTO) is exclusively dedicated to the first proposal. Though I support repeal of the 17th Amendment, that is not explicitly a part of TTO’s mission.

I should explain why I do not actively support other amendment proposals. First, I do not want to distract from TTO’s mission of expanding awareness of the benefits of representational enlargement. The problem with promoting a list of amendments is that many people will, in my opinion, view them as a bundle and reject them en masse if they don’t like one or two of them. For example, let’s say your organization (hypothetically) focused on the repeal of the 17th and 16th amendments. Because there are people who are committed to the former but not the latter (or vice versa), you will not gain as much support as you would by focusing exclusively on either objective. That reality also undermined, IMO, Sabato's book "A More Perfect Constitution" (which advocated 23 different amendments).

Before I get to my fundamental rationale for not actively supporting other amendments, let's identify the main reason our Congress does not put forth any new amendments: They are no longer answerable to the people. After all, why not put forth many of the amendments proposed by you, Saboto and others? Their ratification would not occur until ¾ of the states’ legislatures affirmed them anyway, and that is a very long journey for an amendment! So, as a hypothetical, imagine that the current Congress proposed an amendment which requires the distribution of goods & services in the U.S. to be “determined and directed by the state national economic plan” according to the principle that “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work” (having taken their inspiration from Articles 11 & 12 of the now defunct Soviet Constitution). As disturbing as their proposal would be, I would not be overly alarmed simply because no more than two or three states would even consider affirming such an amendment. As far as I’m concerned, Congress should put forth virtually all proposals that have widespread support and let the states’ legislatures exercise their authority as provided by Article V.

Of course, Congress (as it is currently comprised) will not propose any amendments for the states’ ratification because they realize that the only ones that would be affirmed are those which reduce the power and majesty of our imperial Congress. Otherwise, why not let ¾ of the states decide if the 17th amendment should be repealed, or whatever? Put it all out there for the states to decide. Congress is terrified at the prospect of empowering the states to that extent, which is why we will need an Article V convention.

That leads to my belief in the fundamental essentiality of representational enlargement. We now have a Congress that is largely of the Special Interests, by the Special Interests, and for the Special Interests. (As explained in Taking Back Our Republic, this is a direct result of oversized congressional districts.) It is clear that, had we a “People’s House”, it would approve many amendment proposals for the states to consider. Representational enlargement will enable us to realize that vision by replacing 435 politician-oligarchs with several thousand citizen representatives. I know many people will take issue with my conclusion, but that is why representational enlargement is the gateway solution. That is, if we were able to ratify only a single new amendment, that amendment should require representational enlargement. That would enable the citizenry to regain control of the U.S. House and replace an obstructionist Congress with one willing to allow the states’ legislatures to consider additional amendments to the Constitution.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby Pseudolus » Mon Jul 05, 2010 6:59 pm

JEQuidam wrote:Speaking for myself, I don’t have the time to engage in discussion of other amendment proposals and, more importantly, I am not knowledgeable enough to take a firm position on most of them one way or the other.


If you join The Liberty List on Facebook, you could participate in only the areas where you have interest and disregard the others. (I definitely put in amendments that I have no interest in getting passed; but I figured a group think tank dedicated to discussion and drafting of amendments should at least talk about all ideas, then draft them to be as clear as they can be, then decide to either accept or reject them in the final Liberty List.) I'm of the opinion that #1-4 of the list are all individual gateway solutions which, if even one is passed, would lead us away from oligarchy.

JEQuidam wrote:Not to discourage you, but this probably isn’t the best forum for engaging in discussion on a wide ranging list of possible amendments.


Agreed, I think this forum should be specifically focused on only the Apportionment Amendment. But I also think we need a topic thread dedicated to a debate about its new wording. Let's get that thread going!

JEQuidam wrote:The problem with promoting a list of amendments is that many people will, in my opinion, view them as a bundle and reject them en masse if they don’t like one or two of them.


Agreed again. However, I do think different states will be attracted to different amendments; so having a list and then breaking it into sections for petition (almost like having separate organization who pursue solely only one of the amendments from the list like TTO does) is the best way, in my current opinion, to get real and widespread traction about an Amendment Convention. Obviously, states without a large population are going to be against an Apportionment Amendment and thus will always be un-supportive of an Amendment Convention to debate solely that one amendment. If, on the other hand, that state without a large population wanted an Amendment Convention for its own separate reason and knew that that reason would at least be discussed at said Amendment Convention, then I believe the smaller states would risk supporting an Amendment Convention--hoping that they could pass the amendment that serves their own interests while that blocking those amendment that hurts their power. Once the various states agree to an Amendment Convention for their separate and own interests, I believe there would be a tug and pull ultimately resulting in compromises such as: "If you support mine, I'll support yours." And thus, more than one amendment would be passed and likely none of them would be passed without the existence of the others.

But let's not get bogged down in debating my stuff here; let's instead focus on writing the new language of an Apportionment Amendment, which is within the scope of TTO. Get that topic thread going!
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby Pseudolus » Mon Jul 05, 2010 9:25 pm

JEQuidam wrote:For example, let’s say your organization (hypothetically) focused on the repeal of the 17th and 16th amendments. Because there are people who are committed to the former but not the latter (or vice versa), you will not gain as much support as you would by focusing exclusively on either objective. That reality also undermined, IMO, Sabato's book "A More Perfect Constitution" (which advocated 23 different amendments).


I didn't read Sabato's book, but I read through his 23 proposed amendments. Every one of them was ridiculous, some were authoritarian by nature, and most showed a lack of understanding of the American system. As his amendments are written, I'd be against every single one. That's the reason, IMO, his amendments never gained traction: because his proposals were all inherently flawed and/or destructive toward liberty.
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Re: Amendment Convention

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:36 am

JEQuidam wrote:
Pseudolus wrote:Isn't the whole concern over a new Constitution being created from an Amendment Convention somewhat moot?
I understand your point, but here is why it's not moot: many people labor under the misconception that Article V of the Constitution authorizes some sort of "constitutional convention" when it fact it does no such thing. This misperception is fostered by propaganda and hysteria and it needs to be overcome before we will see any progress towards getting the states to call an Article V amendment convention.

Pseudolus wrote: Why isn't there a topic where we debate the wording and debate the realistic nature of jumping immediately from 435 to 6000+ Representatives?
Now that you point that out, I hadn't thought about it because (from my perspective) that amendment has already been drafted! It was proposed by the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789 (see page 6 of "Taking Back Our Republic"). I believe that for many people, it will be more credible to start with what was intended as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, rather than starting anew. Do you disagree? (I'm not opposed to creating an area in the forum for this discussion if you think it necessary.)


I don't see where there's any misconception. Obviously, Article V does not authorize calling a constitutional convention; it only authorizes calling an "amendment convention." But one man's notion of an "amendment" is another man's notion of wholescale, fundamental change. (Indeed, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down a voter-initiated "amendment" to the state Constitution in 2008 which, in the judgment of the Court, was too broad and sweeping a set of changes to be dealt with via a voter-initiated amendment. They held that the constitution's separate treatment of "amendments" and a "convention" implied that the sorts of proposals they could consider were separate, and that "amendments" had to be more limited in scope that the sort of general revision that a convention could consider. Ergo, if a proposed "amendment" amounted to a general revision, it could not be placed on the ballot via a voter-initiated process, and instead would have to be vetted by a full constitutional convention called for the purpose. For more information, see Citizens Protecting Mich.'s Constitution v. Sec'y of State, 761 N.W.2d 210 (Mich. Ct. App.), aff'd, 755 N.W.2d 157 (Mich. 2008).) The concern is that a runaway convention would ultimately make proposals far broader than the Constitution allows it to, but that there would be no workable political mechanism in place to prevent those proposals from running roughshod over the limits that the convention was supposed to observe but ignored -- exactly what happened with the Philadelphia Convention.
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