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WHAT DOES A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION MEAN?

BRYCE ON POLITICS

– A Trump card for the President.

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Since his inauguration, President Trump has been faced with a push back from Congressional Democrats, but now he is also faced with obstinate Republicans as well. This resistance is ultimately based on the Washington establishment who deeply resent this outsider taking control of their town. Naturally, this has slowed Mr. Trump’s legislative agenda including, among other things, health insurance, immigration, tax reform, and passing a budget. Fortunately, there is one Trump card he can play which they are terrified of, namely a Constitutional Convention. Let me explain…

Years ago, Milton Eisenhower pointed out the President of the United States has the power to call for a Constitutional Convention whereby our governing rules can be reexamined and amended accordingly. This would take important decisions out of the hands of the Congress and put them in a specially appointed delegation with members from each state. Such a Congress has not been held since 1787 (over 200 years). Think about it, this would be an opportunity to revise our electoral process, implement term limits, rethink the role of lobbyists, and determine performance evaluations for our officials, among other things.

Changing the U.S. Constitution can be a rather tricky proposition. To amend it under normal circumstances requires a proposal to be deliberated and approved by at least two thirds of both chambers of Congress, a procedure familiar to most Americans. Assuming acceptance, it is sent to the various state legislatures where a minimum of 75% must approve of it for passage. However, Article V of the Constitution has a provision whereby a Constitutional Convention (aka, Article V Convention, or Amendments Convention) can be called by at least two-thirds of the states (34) whereby amendments can be drafted by a separate body of delegates, not the Congress, before being sent to the state legislatures for ratification (again, at least 75%). The scope of the convention must be very specific in terms of what it proposes to address.

Every time such a convention has been proposed in the past, the Congress straightens up and finally tackles the problem in question, fearing their authority will be usurped. The last time such a convention was proposed was to implement a balanced budget amendment in the 1980s. Fearing such a convention, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in 1985, which required the federal budget be balanced by 1991. However, the Supreme Court overturned the act in 1986. Nonetheless, the Congress responded to the threat of the convention. There have been other examples over the years as well.

Selection of state delegates to the convention vary from state to state, but most are nominated by the governor and elected by the state legislature.

We now live in a time where the approval rating of Congress is at an all time low, and the American public has genuine concerns about such things as curbing the influence of lobbyists, redefining the term limits and benefits of the Congress, campaign reform, to mention but a few. Taking such important matters out of the direct hands of the Congress, who the public no longer trusts, would go a long way to overcome the partisan politics in the capitol and breakup the professional politicians of the Washington establishment.

The question becomes, who would push for such a convention? Since the Congress represents the status quo, they lack the political chutzpah to push for such a proposal. In fact, it needs to come from the states themselves, but because of the disparity between them, this too is highly unlikely.

This thereby represents a golden opportunity for President Trump, the ultimate political outsider. Should he call such a convention, it will likely be wildly embraced by the American people as a whole, not just one party, as they realize some significant changes have to be enacted in the manner by which our government operates. It’s more than just the right thing to do; it’s bold, it’s imaginative, and it makes the person look very presidential. Let us not forget, George Washington presided over the last Constitutional Convention.

Understand this, the president serves in no official capacity in enacting constitutional amendments, but the president could force such a convention simply by creating a firestorm of public demand. Frankly, it’s a no lose proposition for Mr. Trump as the public would embrace it.

For more information, here is Article V of the Constitution:

“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, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Next time you hear of the Congress pushing back Mr. Trump’s agenda, particularly Congressmen and Senators from his own party, do not be surprised if you hear the expression “Constitutional Convention” mentioned, coupled with “term limits,” “lobbyist reform,” and “campaign reform.” It will be interesting to see how fast the Congress reacts. They will either get on-board or try to have the President impeached. However, they have no way of stopping a Constitutional Convention once it has started.

First published: November 11, 2011

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Tim is a writer and management consultant located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.


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