I suppose it’s a good sign of a lively political debate happening in this country. Multiple groups are currently working to call a constitutional convention, as set out in Article V of the Constitution. However, they are trying to do this in the alternative, never-before-used way–rather than having two-thirds of the Congress approve a constitutional amendment and send it to the states (which is unlikely in our divided political climate), they want to convince two-thirds of the state legislatures to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention. Once 34 states approve such a resolution, this would trigger the convention and, theoretically, a 28th Amendment to the Constitution could be voted on. But which 28th Amendment?
On one side, we have the conservatives, represented by the Compact for America, an organization led by Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute. Their 28th Amendment idea is that old conservative refrain–a Balanced Budget Amendment, severely restricting the Federal government’s ability to spend money. How close are they to achieving that goal? That depends on how you look at it. When the Michigan legislature voted yes on a constitutional convention resolution last month, Michigan did in fact become the 34th state to do so. Problem is, 12 of the states which had previously agreed to hop on the convention train have since rescinded those resolutions. It is now left to the constitutional experts to bicker it out with each other about the legal dilemma–is a state allowed to change its mind after it has petitioned Congress for a convention? I would think so, but not everyone agrees.
It should also be said that the Tea Party itself, as much as they love the idea of a balanced budget, is divided on this issue. Many people–on all political sides–fear a runaway constitutional convention, at which all kinds of “interesting” rules and laws could be approved by a limited collection of states.
On the other side, there is a push for a 28th Amendment prompted by the awful Citizens United and McClutcheon Supreme Court rulings. This 28th Amendment would overturn Citizens United, make clear that corporations are not people, and limit how much money an individual can give to candidates in an election. This effort is being organized by, among other groups, Money Out Voters In. There is a 28th Amendment roadshow travelling around the country right now, and they will be visiting the local Occupy chapter here in Portland in May. As far as progress in the state legislatures–16 of the more predictably progressive states have passed the resolution for a convention focused on this specific amendment. That’s fewer states than went for the balanced budget amendment, but then again, there’s been less waffling and rescinding of votes on this one.
So which 28th Amendment do we prefer? While it may sound weird, personally, I wouldn’t mind both of them getting passed. Day after day, I become more convinced that we must limit the power of both government and large corporations, especially as the two have turned into such close BFFs. However, realistically speaking? Any version of the 28th Amendment is a long shot. I doubt that either side will succeed in making a convention happen, and we are likely stuck with the partisan stalemate we have now in our government.