Memo to the Tea Party
I suppose that this post may cause some mischief, but let’s see. Many people who are opposed to the Obama Administration are concerned about what they see as excessive deficit spending. They want to do something about that, though so far I’m not sure they (i.e., the Tea Party folks) know what they want to do.
Here’s a thought. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a big push to add a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Federal Constitution. This proposal was approved by the House but never could get through the Senate. More important, many state legislatures passed resolutions calling on Congress to convene a constitutional convention that would send the amendment to the states for ratification. Under Article Five, you need 2/3 of the state legislatures to convene a convention, and the BBA fell just short of that threshold.
Here’s the kicker. Many scholars (though not all) argue that a call for a constitutional convention does not lapse unless a state legislature affirmatively repeals the prior request (as some states have done). In other words, most of the states that sought a convention on the BBA are still on record in support of that idea. I don’t know what the current total is, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s 30. That means that to get a convention on that proposal activists would just need to get a few more state legislatures that did not back the original proposal to do so. There are fascinating issues that would emerge if the 2/3 bar is overcome (Does Congress have any discretion to refuse the request? Would its decision be a political question? How would such a convention be organized?) I’m not personally in favor of a BBA, but others who like the idea might want to consider this option.