From governors to voters to national leaders calling for a Constitutional Convention, some confusion exists about what this convention is and how it would function. One group, The Convention of States (COS) Project, was established to help educate and encourage Americans to understand at least one solution that could help solve many of America’s problems.
The COS Project was founded by “Citizens for Self Governance” to limit the federal government’s power. Its leaders assert:
We believe Washington, D.C., is broken and will not fix itself. The federal government is spending this country into the ground, seizing power from the states and taking liberty from the people. We have a solution that is as big as the problem.”
What is the purpose of a Constitutional Convention, or a Convention of States? These are terms referring to a process by which Americans at the local level, through their state leaders, can influence and propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. America’s Founding Fathers made sure proposing amendments would not be taken lightly or accomplished easily. They restricted ratifying amendments to the Constitution to only two means.
- Congress can only ratify an amendment to the Constitution if two-thirds of the House and Senate vote in favor of it.
- Article V of the Constitution delineates power to the states to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Two-thirds of the states must submit an application to Congress to hold a Convention on the same topic (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government). After the states debate and vote on the proposed amendment, three-quarters of the states must approve the amendment for it to be ratified.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution states:
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.
The COS Project argues, “By calling a convention of the states, we can stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power. The current situation is precisely what the Founders feared, and they gave us a solution we have a duty to use.”
Congress has no constitutional authority to prevent a Convention from taking place, although it may try.
To learn more, the Alabama chapter of the COS Project created a video to explain the Article V process and how a Convention could take place in 21st century America.
The last Constitutional Convention was held in 1787 when the U.S. Constitution was signed into law and became the basis for American jurisprudence and cultural ethos.