‘Convention of States’ and ‘Compact for America’ – The Army and Marines of Article V
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 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.
As 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.
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).
Until 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.
Convention 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 will 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.
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.
To 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!