‘Convention of States’ and ‘Compact for America’ – The Army and Marines of Article V

| December 17 2013
David Leeper

It still comes as a surprise to most Americans to learn that our state legislatures have the explicit Constitutional authority to amend the US Constitution without the permission or approval of Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court. But it’s true.

Article-5Article V of the Constitution specifies two distinct approaches to amending the Constitution. Stated simply:

In the first approach, Congress proposes amendments and the states dispose of them through ratification or rejection.

In the second approach, the states both propose and dispose of candidate amendments themselves. Congress plays at most a mere administrative role, and the President and Supreme Court play no role at all.

George-MasonAs shown in the Federalist Papers, the Framers feared that despite their best efforts to constrain the federal government through enumerated powers and the Bill of Rights, the federal government might one day overreach, doing serious damage to the natural rights it was created to protect. So they installed an “emergency cord” for the state legislators to re-assert their Constitutional authority over the federal government.

Namely –

Knowing full well that an overreaching central government would never voluntarily reduce its own power, the Framers explicitly included Article V (Process 2) as a way to amend the Constitution without the approval or permission of Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court. Now more than ever, its time has come.

More details on Article V and the state-driven amendment process history may be found in Ralph Benko’s Forbes article at this link. The purpose of this article is to argue for an alliance between two particular Article V movements, namely Compact for America (CFA) and Convention of States (COS).

CFA_logo_amendments_article_vUntil recently, these two movements have sometimes behaved as political rivals, each touting itself to have the “better” approach to applying Article V. Now, many in both groups are coming to realize that taken together, COS and CFA form a natural alliance that is stronger than either could be alone and that together will be even stronger than the sum of its parts.

Compact for America (CFA) aims for speed and is sharply focused (for now) on a particular amendment goal — a balanced budget.  To save process time, CFA uses a well-established legal process called interstate compacts. These are fully Constitutional voluntary agreements among states that would speed the process outlined by the 18th-century language in Article V. CFA’s battle plan projects that a balanced budget amendment could be ratified and in force in as little as one to two years.

PrintConvention of States (COS) is creating a longer-term, more generalized approach that could be used repeatedly to propose, debate, and ratify candidate amendments such as term limits for Congress, balanced budgets, federal regulation overrides, and others. Examples of candidate amendments that might be considered at future conventions of states appear in Mark Levin’s August, 2013, best-seller The Liberty Amendments. With COS’ cautious and deliberate approach, the timeline for a first ratified amendment may be five years or more.

Levin’s book has given a big boost to all the Article V movements. To date, he has not endorsed any particular group. When questioned about the multiple groups he has said “the more, the better”.  He is acting as a modern-day Thomas Paine for this peaceful revolution of American citizens and their state legislatures against an overtaxing, over-regulating, and overbearing Big Government in Washington. The first chapter of his book is available (free) at this link, and this link has a video interview of Levin.

Let’s compare the strategies behind CFA and COS:

Compact for America is analogous to the US Marines. Like the Marines, their motto could well be “First to Fight“. Their brave constituent states will likely be the first to attack Washington’s Big Government juggernaut via Article V Process 2. Like the Marines, they have a focused mission objective — to halt the runaway federal debt that marinesarmylogos1will either sell our children and grandchildren into debt bondage or spawn the biggest global financial cataclysm in world history. Either way, there’s not much time to lose.

Convention of States is analogous to the US Army. It is a strategic force designed to win the larger war against Big Government. Calmly and deliberately, COS is building a process for state-driven amendments that includes explicit Conventions of States where candidate amendments can be proposed, discussed, edited, and referred back to the state legislatures. The process will be tightly controlled to block any chance of the “runaway” convention still feared by many. Delegates will be bound by their states as to what they can propose, they can be recalled at any time, and one state (Indiana) has even specified fines and imprisonment for any delegate who goes “rogue”.

No matter how Article V is applied, per the Constitution, no amendment can ever be added to the Constitution until and unless it is separately and explicitly ratified by at least 38 states. And it takes a mere 13 states to block any proposed “rogue” amendment if indeed such an amendment could ever be offered.

So …

Just as the US Army and the US Marines provide complementary strategic and tactical forces for the nation’s defense, so the COS and CFA programs offer complementary strategic and tactical political forces to defend our freedoms from our runaway federal government leviathan.

handshakeTo be sure, there has always been a rivalry of sorts between the US Army and the US Navy (Marine Corps), but when they have a common enemy, they fight together and cover each other’s back. So it can and should be between CFA and COS. Each can and should back the other’s initiatives wherever and whenever possible and share information freely. Both have a common enemy — the Big Government, statist, Progressive Left that has invaded and infested the once-great Democrat party of JFK.

Here’s another way to know we’re on the right track: the far-left Daily Kos website has suddenly discovered Article V, is seriously worried, and is calling for preemptory attacks on movement leaders.

In summary –

As conservatives, we’ve been fighting one Big Government “alligator” after another for years. Together, Article V movements like COS and CFA could actually “drain the swamp” as well as kill targeted alligators like runaway federal spending and bureaucracy bloat.

If you’d like to help with the Article V movement, see the COS and CFA websites for how you can become involved. Of course both gratefully accept donations, but what both really want is your direct involvement!

And finally –

Kudos to our wise and prescient Framers like George Mason and James Madison. They learned and applied timeless principles of human nature and government, and they brilliantly foresaw our 2014 dilemma back in 1789!

7 comments
Texmom
Texmom

Not enough people are checking out the leadership in these movements, which makes all the difference in having confidence in it.

brboardman
brboardman

Thank you, David, for this precise articulation of my own sentiments.  We must move forward with a Convention to Propose Amendments.  We have the Article V vehicle in which to travel.  Now is not the time for fear, but for action.

Cathy
Cathy

Mark Levin's book on page 16 calls a Convention of States a "Federal" Convention.  The States make application for it but Congress calls it, not the states.  There is absolutely no language regarding rules or process in Article V.  I would expect a Congress which does not respect the Constitution to intervene illegally.  Then what?  Resort to the Courts?  Why take a chance on endangering our Constitution?  There is nothing wrong with it.  The people we elect are the problem.  Most people have no idea who represents them at the local, state and federal levels of government, yet our Founders admonished us to choose our leaders wisely and exercise eternal vigilance to guard our liberty.  Sad that people are willing to risk having a new or amended constitution when we don't even know the language proposed, let alone what would be approved!  How can conservatives control a national convention when we can't even control a political party?  Do we really think the liberals will sit back and allow conservatives to pass conservative amendments or limit the power of the federal government?  We are opening a Pandora's box if we support a Convention of States. And COS proponents who say that opponents are using "fear" should look at their own argument which basically states either we have a COS or it's the end of our nation!  First do no harm is good advice.  COS proponents call critics of COS fearful. I would call them prudent.  

sleepergirl
sleepergirl

It is a puzzle to me why Phyllis Schlaffly, the granddame of conservatives, is so dead set against this seemingly last hope to restore our Constitution and preserve our Republic.  Has she actually researched this issue, read Levin's book?  The legislation passed in the Indiana state legislature over the last year should allay her fears.  Delegates go to the COS with narrow charters.  Anything outside that charter and the IN legislature will recall a delegate instantly.    I can't for the life of me imagine any kind of  "runaway" convention.  As proponents of this COS repeatedly affirm, this is not a constitutional convention, but one to propose amendments.  Can't people see the difference?

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

@brboardman@David Leeper Exactly so. The Constitution and the rights it is meant to secure are dangling by a thread. The risk of doing something is now far outweighed by the risk of doing notion. The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave!

dleeper47
dleeper47 moderator

@Cathy 


Thank you for this response ... it is clear and thoughtful, and your questions are good ones. I'll reply briefly here, and I hope to write another article soon using your response as my source material.


Initially, I felt the same way you do now.  Then I took a (much) closer look. I read about the cautious and deliberate approaches of CFA and COS that all but guarantee against "rogue amendments" even being proposed let alone ratified by 38 states. I read Levin's book with his 11 candidate amendments to see what how the language of the amendments might read. And I changed my mind. More importantly, I took heart.


Of course we should elect the right people. We've been trying to, and we should go right on trying our best. How that that alone been working out? Even when we get a solid conservative in Congress, the old bulls that run the place soon pervert them. Some are phonies to begin with, campaigning conservative and voting "to get along" with the Big Government liberals in both parties. 


Please read Levin's first proposed amendment (term limits, at this link) and reflect on how that amendment could change the nature of Congress and help those good conservatives rise to the top. Would you like to see Reid, Schumer, Graham, McCain, Pelosi, Van Hollen, and Boehner (to name a few) termed out and stepping aside for our conservative newcomers?  I surely would.


And that's only the beginning ...


At the COS and CFA websites, please also read the careful and thoughtful responses to those who still fear using Article V as the founders intended.  The people who wrote those responses are the prudent ones. Properly wielded, Article V Process 2 is our most powerful tool. That's why Daily Kos has awakened and is calling for a smear campaign against COS, CFA, and other Article V movements.


By the way, even Mark Levin once felt as you do now -- he once opposed any "tampering" with the Constitution.  Please read the first chapter of his book (free, at this link), the intro material at the COS and CFA websites, the FAQ sections at those sites, and then perhaps Levin's full book. Then come back and tell us what you think.


In my opinion, our situation is desperate enough, the risk is low enough, and the reward more than great enough to pursue these initiatives. I only hope there is still time to make a difference.


Thanks again for your thoughtful note.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

@sleepergirlWe even if somehow the Congress initiated Method One and DID begin "propos[ing] amendments to this Constitution," so what? Let them try to repeal the 2nd Amendment. That would NEVER get past the states, and certainly not 3/4s of the states, and then every legislator who supported such a thing would be thrown out in the next election. Three-fourths of the states aren't going to support anything too far out of line in either direction. 

Right now, the true danger isn't doing something, it's doing nothing .