Law & Principles

Five Questions about Article V: Question #3

September 10, 2015

Trent England

Part three of five in the "Five Questions: Constitution expert Trent England on the pros and cons of an Article V convention" series. 

Holding a national convention to propose constitutional amendments is either the only solution to rebalance our political system or a sure path to its final destruction. At least, those are the two points of view most commonly heard in the current debate over using “Article V”—really just one clause therein—in an attempt to change the U.S. Constitution.

Why call a convention?

Those who want to change the Constitution have many, and sometimes conflicting, arguments and objectives. On the political left, “Move to Amend” is a grassroots campaign that wants to eliminate constitutional protections that limit government regulation of political activities. On the right are efforts to achieve several different versions of a balanced budget amendment, to either define marriage in the Constitution or require that the issue be left to the states, and simply to consider any proposal that might restrain federal power.

This latter effort, led by a group called “Convention of States,” has the support of conservative leaders like radio host Mark Levin, libertarian law professor Randy Barnett, and Oklahoma’s former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. They argue their plan is “the only constitutionally effective means available to do what is essential for our nation—restoring a robust federalism with genuine checks on the power of the federal government.”

Another effort, the “Compact for America,” offers something like a hybrid plan. They would change the constitution through the convention process, but have state legislatures use an interstate compact. Such a contract among the states, common in other areas of law, could define the procedures and limit the power of a convention. The Compact effort is designed to satisfy some of the concerns of convention critics.

Read the full article in Perspective >