Article V of the United States Constitution reads:
The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
In more modern language, that means:
There are two methods by which Congress may amend this Constitution:
- By a two-thirds vote of both Houses; or
- By calling a Convention for proposing Amendments.
A Convention for proposing Amendments must be called when two-thirds of the Legislatures of the several States make Application to the Congress for that purpose.
In either case, Amendments shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes as Part of this Constitution when the Amendments are ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the states, or by Conventions in three-fourths of the states.
The following conditions restrict the nature of Amendments that may be made:
- Prior to 1808, no Amendment shall affect Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 (this condition is moot)
- Prior to 1808, no Amendment shall affect Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 (this condition is moot)
- No Amendment shall deprive a State of its equal representation in the Senate without that State’s consent.
Taken in the context of current events, it is my considered opinion that the most interesting phrase in either version of the text above is this:
whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or,on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments[.]
You know why I think that’s interesting?
No matter what Former President Obama might say, there are only 50 states in the Union, not 57.
The threshold to require the Congress to call a Convention is two-thirds of the Legislatures.
Two-thirds of 50 is…33 and 1/3rd, which for Constitutional purposes we must round up to 34.
Republicans currently control 33 of the 34 state legislatures required to call a Convention. Democrats control 13. Four states (Alaska, Connecticut, Maine and New York) have split legislatures or one of their two houses is currently deadlocked in a tie.
Just one state shy, and some really interesting things could start to happen. Hell, as enthusiastic as some Democrats are about getting rid of the Electoral College, it’s a reasonable possibility that the Legislatures could make their applications now.
I don’t think it’s a good idea; in fact, I think it would make things much worse than they are now.
As a nation, we lack the attention span to be guided by wisdom. We, and more to the point, those who would lobby to be chosen to attend such a Convention, not only lack wisdom itself, but also the ability to recognize wisdom when it quietly happens by.
A Convention to Amend, in a 24 hour internet news cycle, would very likely hasten the end of the Republic, in the name of Progress.
It would be heaven for a political junkie.
But don’t worry – I’m sure there is not a single special interest, foreign or domestic, conservative or progressive, gay, straight, lesbian, queer, transgendered, questioning or just confused, liberal feminist or radical feminist, Christian, Jewish, Atheist or Muslim, vegan or carnivore, pro-gun or anti-gun, pro-life or pro-choice, Soros or Koch, who has any sort of plan, agenda, war chest or army of lawyers and lobbyists ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice to take full advantage of the opportunity to trade a little money to force their language into the greatest of all government charters.
No one has that kind of foresight.