Tags: Tom Coburn retirement | amending the Constitution | Citizens for Self-Governance | convention of states

Coburn, in Retirement, Plans To Work on Amending the Constitution

Image: Coburn, in Retirement, Plans To Work on Amending the Constitution Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Landov)

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 01:55 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn does not intend to return to his medical practice, but he does have plans to launch an effort to convene a convention of the states to amend the Constitution, according to a recent interview.

“I think [George] Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy. That’s why he put Article V in,” Coburn told The Hill

Article V provides that if two-thirds of the individual states call for it, Congress has to convene to consider and propose possible amendments. A three-quarter majority of the states (38) would then vote to approve it through either a vote in the state legislature or via a state convention. 

Coburn, who has previously expressed his frustration with Washington's inability to tend to even the most basic functions of government, believes it is an idea whose time has arrived.

“I think we ought to have a balanced budget amendment, I think we ought to have term limits. I think we ought to put a choke hold on regulation and re-establish the powers of the Congress,” he told The Hill.

It is not the first time Coburn, who is battling cancer, has raised the issue of amending the Constitution.

"I'm going to be involved with the Convention of States. I'm going to try to motivate so that that happens. I think that's the only answer, I'm just going to go around and talk about why it's needed, and try to convince state legislatures to do it," said Coburn in a February interview with The Huffington Post

As arcane as the notion may be, Coburn is not alone in pushing for a constitutional convention.

The group Citizens for Self-Governance has launched the Convention of States project to garner support for the proposition in order to "return the country to its original vision of a limited federal government that is of, by and for the people." 

Coburn told The Hill that he has been in contact with Michael Farris, president of CSG.

The Washington Post's George Will wrote in April column that it is "an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other state legislatures." 

And Forbes contributor Stephen Hayward, who calls it a "bad idea whose time has come," wrote in August that it might "result in constraining centralized government rather than expanding it." 

And there also some on the opposite side of the political spectrum who have voiced openness to it, including Harvard University professor Lawrence Lessig.

"The framers of our Constitution picked state legislators as the backstop for the republic. They gave them the duty to step up if Congress loses its capacity to govern. That loss has happened. The American government has failed. The only question now is whether state legislatures will cower behind the “what ifs” or do their job," wrote Lessig in a May article in The Atlantic

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