Tuesday, June 7, 2016

...as time marches on, the Article Five MAY be the vehicle!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     On Saturday morning, I got a call from former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.  He told me I had made a mistake in saying the Article Five issue would be voted on by the people in November.  The good Senator was right- the Article Five convention does not require voter approval- just the approval of the state legislature, which it received on April 27th.   

     Senate Joint Resolution, authored by Sen. Rob Standridge, (R-Norman), and Rep. Gary Banz, (R-Midwest City) passed the House 57-33 and the Senate 30-16.  Oklahoma became the seventh state to call for a Convention of the States.  The Joint Resolution calls for a constitutional convention to propose amendments on the following topics: “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”

     Before an Article Five convention can be called, 34 states must pass resolutions.  Convention of States Action is a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit out of Austin, Texas, that is organizing across the country to lobby legislators to pass such resolutions.  They have made amazing progress in the past couple of years and more state legislatures are expected to take up the Article Five issue in the next couple of years.

     The calling of an Article Five convention has been one of the most divisive issues among Republicans in recent memory.  The primary reason is because there has never been an Article Five convention to amend the constitution. All twenty seven amendments to the constitution have been initiated by Congress.  Because it has never been done, opponents of an Article Five fear a runaway convention where not just term limits and a balanced budget amendment are discussed, but fundamental liberties like the second amendment could  be placed in jeopardy. 

     Supporters of the Article Five are adamant that safeguards will prevent a runaway convention and those who oppose are unnecessarily fearful.  The rules of the convention are a big issue and the Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL) have been working on proposed rules for an Article Five for the past eighteen months.  They meet next week in Philadelphia to wrap up their work on suggested rules for an Article Five.  You can read a draft of the proposed rules on their website- http://articlevcaucus.com.

     Proponents of the Article Five include not just Senator Coburn, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott, columnist George Will, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Wallbuilders founder David Barton, radio talk show host Mark Levin, and a multitude of other conservatives.  Supporters also include liberal hedge fund manager George Soros.  That’s right- Soros favors an Article Five, but not for addressed fiscal restraint and term limits.  Soros wants to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the influence that money has over the political process, aka campaign finance reform.

     Those who oppose an Article Five include conservative groups like Eagle Forum, the John Birch Society, Concerned Women of America, the National Rifle Association, and Americans for Prosperity and liberal groups like the ACLU and the AFL-CIO.  They all oppose for the same reason- no guarantee that a runaway convention wouldn’t happen. 

     Justice Scalia, a strict constitutionalist and a hero of conservatives, said the reason the founders put Article Five in the founding document was for just a time as this.  “They knew that Congress would be unwilling to give attention to many issues the people are concerned with, particularly those involving restrictions on the federal government’s own power.  The founders foresaw that and they provided the convention as a remedy.  If the only way to get that convention is to take this minimal risk, then it is a reasonable one.”

     Among conservatives you would be hard pressed to find one who doesn’t support a balanced budget amendment and term limits- the very issues the Article Five is charged to address.  But they don’t believe the Article Five is the vehicle to get it accomplished.  They want Congress to address those issues, but as time goes on, more conservatives are jumping on board because desperate times require desperate measures.
     Steven Hayward wrote in Forbes magazine in 2014; “An Article Five is a really bad idea and it’s probably time we give it a try.”    I am much closer to supporting an Article Five than I was last year.  I think most conservatives are. Thanks Senator Coburn for your passion and love for our country and for graciously allowing me to set the record straight on Oklahoma and the Article Five. 
UPDATE: Louisiana passed an Article Five resolution, so now eight states have called for a Convention of the States.  

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