Every so often talk arises about holding an Article V Amendments convention amongst the states to amend the Constitution, since Congress has become increasingly unaccountable. In reaction, dire warnings spring up declaring that a “constitutional convention,” or “con con,” could result in a runaway convention where radical changes are made that fundamentally rewrite our Constitution. Are the doomsday warnings legitimate, or simply scare tactics to block desperately needed reforms?
Legislation is currently being considered in most state legislatures that would begin the process of adopting a National Debt Relief Amendment. Once ratified, it would prohibit Congress from increasing the federal debt unless a simple majority of the states approve. So far, North Dakota and Louisiana have passed the initial legislation with bipartisan support in both chambers of their state legislatures. Ultimately, 38 states will need to ratify the amendment. The language of the proposed amendment is very simple, “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate states.”
Article V of the U.S. Constitution lays out the process by which amendments are added to the Constitution. Amendments may be proposed by either the states or Congress. Throughout America’s history, amendments have only been proposed by Congress. If proposed by the states, an amendment must then be ratified by three-quarters of the states or by conventions within the states. It is the initial convention called for by the states to propose amendments that naysayers, including some on the right oddly enough, claim may cause dangerous changes to the Constitution, even though it has never happened before.