Speer: Might we be headed toward con-con?
Could Michigan legislators be responsible for the calling of a national Constitutional Convention?
Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Without doubt Michigan lawmakers voted March 26 to approve Senate Joint Resolution V – a request to the U.S. Congress to call a national convention for the purpose of drafting a balance budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What is debatable, however, is how many other state legislatures have done the same. While some, like U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, believe that Michigan was the 34th state to do so, others aren’t so sure. Hunter this week called upon House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to consider whether Michigan’s vote brought the total number of states to the two-thirds needed for Congress to convene a national convention.
Some states approved similar motions years ago, then rescinded their action when new lawmakers took office, thus the confusion. Clouding it even further, Constitutional experts have differing opinions whether a state could even do so. Some believe once a state is on record with a decision, that decision is binding.
States rights advocates are using Article V in the U.S. Constitution as the basis for their request. That article, which again is vague, has Congress in control of convening a convention if two-thirds of the states petition for one. This is the closest the country has ever has come to actually considering it.
I have to believe the fact that we’re at this point stems directly from the public’s dissatisfaction with federal government – Congress and the president – on being able to work together to get issues resolved. In a Gallup Poll conducted in January, 65 percent of those surveyed expressed their dissatisfaction with how government was working. Late last year the respected Pew Research Center reported in their polling that 51 percent of those surveyed felt frustrated with the federal government and 26 percent actually described themselves as “angry” at government.
Both surveys identified concerns with the national debt and the lack of a balanced budget as the key reasons for their beliefs. Those concerns then are “played out” with the actions of the state legislatures in the votes regarding the calling of a national constitutional convention.
It will be interesting to see what Boehner now will do with the question before him. While I expect some “stonewalling” on this part until after the November elections, it is now pretty evident the issue is not going to disappear.
Will history be made with the calling of a convention, and if so, was it the Michigan vote that made the convention a reality?