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Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments

 

The Prequel


T

he following amendment would resolve several critical issues concerning the amending process: Can a state legislature rescind its previous ratification of a constitutional amendment? Can it withdraw any of its applications for a convention of the states? Does Congress have power to control when, where, and how that convention is held? or do the legislatures have such power?

Neither Congress nor any court has ever settled these matters definitively. So, before embarking down the unprecedented path of proposing amendments, it clearly would be best if we could first persuade Congress to propose such an amendment in the normal fashion and our state legislatures to promptly ratify it. To boost that effort, legislatures could make their application to Congress for the call of a convention for proposing it. The more legislatures making that application, the greater the incentive Congress has to propose this amendment to all of them itself.*

Joint Resolution
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to conventions for proposing amendments and ratifications of amendments.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:
Article
Section 1. The legislatures of two-thirds of the several States on whose application the Congress shall call a Convention for proposing amendments shall have sole power to prescribe the times, places and manner of holding that Convention, and each of them may, before the Congress is required to call the same, direct its removal from that application.
Sec. 2. If the legislature of a State or convention therein shall have ratified an amendment to the Constitution according to the one or other mode of ratification proposed by the Congress, the legislature thereof or the same or another convention therein may void that ratifying act. But this section shall not be so construed as to affect any amendment after it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.

Although each of the present 27 amendments has added at least one new word to the Constitution's vocabulary, the above amendment wouldn't. Since it would be amending the provisions of Article V of the Constitution, that seems most appropriate and prudent. No need to give any branch of the federal government an untoward opportunity to mindlessly promulgate novel definitions for enhancing its already extravagant powers.

One issue left unresolved is whether Congress can simply tack onto its introductory clause any conditions not specifically provided for in the Constitution, such as no amendment it proposes will be valid unless ratified "within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress." When such is included in the amendment's actual text, there is no ambiguity. But this should be a plain enough matter over which good sense and judgment again prevails.

Another is whether Congress should have power to summarily cancel the ratification process — to, in effect, "un-propose" a submitted amendment — either before a sufficient number of state legislatures have ratified it or retroactively by declaring its adoption isn't permitted because, for example, it wasn't done "within a reasonable time." The courts have sense enough not to touch this. If any members of Congress voting in favor of granting themselves such power are also stupefyingly unaware they've just committed certain electoral suicide, why would anyone wish to waste time trying to enlighten them?

In any event, such an amendment's provisions should help resolve the most critical of these unsettled issues.

 

* Early last century, during efforts to provide for the direct election of U.S. senators, "many states began sending Congress applications for conventions. As the number of applications neared the two-thirds bar, Congress finally acted."



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