Fed-up conservatives in state legislatures are backing an unprecedented procedure called the Convention of States to amend the Constitution, a measure long championed by the tea party movement that would result in political turmoil, The Washington Post reported
Conservative lawmakers in 27 states, angered by the stalemate in Washington, have approved applications for a convention to pass a balanced budget amendment.
And in nine other states in which Republicans control both legislative chambers, supporters of a balanced budget are also calling for a convention to issue constitutional change, the Post says.
If at least seven out of these nine applications for a convention are approved, it would bring the number of applications up to 34, reaching the required number needed under Article V of the Constitution to force Congress to call a convention.
Under Article V, such a convention can be convened when requested by two-thirds of the states, and it is one of two ways to propose amendments to the nation's founding document. But it's never been carried out
before in U.S. history.
"There really isn't much of a precedent. We'll be charting new waters," said Utah GOP Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, a supporter of a constitutional convention.
Utah became the 26th state to issue an application last month, while North and South Dakota have also approved applications this year, the newspaper said.
"The problem is that while the Constitution allows amendments to be adopted and sent to the states by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, or by a national convention called by two-thirds of the states, the founding document is silent on how such a convention would operate," wrote the Post's Reis Wilson.
"How many delegates each state would receive, the rules under which a convention would operate and who would set the agenda would be left up to Congress —
all of those would be open questions."
Utah's Niederhauser said: "Can [a convention's agenda] be limited? That's a good question. We don't know. I suspect there would be a lot of discussion of that as we get closer to the 34 states calling a convention."
But Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a center-left think tank that has fought calls for a convention for decades, told the Post that "there is no authority establishing in the Constitution above that of a convention."
He continued: "If you call a convention, what you're doing is opening up the Constitution to whatever the delegates want to propose. You'd have every interest group in the country recognizing that, if you're opening up the Constitution, they want in on that."
And Fred Wertheimer, who heads the campaign finance advocacy group Democracy 21, told the Post: "This is by far the most dangerous thing in the country today. If we ever got [to a convention], this would create a constitutional crisis unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes."
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