There has been much ado in the Missouri Conservative E-Mail Threads during the past few months over the Constitutional Convention. So great was the discussion that a debate was held on March 1st between Phyllis Shlafly and Dave Roland. The debate was moderated by local radio host Gina Loudon.
Much of that debate has sprung from the current activities in the Missouri General Assembly where they are debating a resolution to call for a Constitutional Convention. Under HCR 19 Missouri would allow for “the proposal and ratification of an amendment to said Constitution which shall provide that an increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the Legislatures of the separate States:”
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the amendments convention contemplated by this application shall be entirely focused upon and exclusively limited to the subject matter of proposing for ratification an amendment to the Constitution providing that an increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the Legislatures of the separate States…”
In 1983, the Missouri General Assembly approved a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments — specifically an amendment to Balance the Federal Budget. I had heard of the 1983 Resolution, but I had never seen — until today: SCR 3. Thank you to Senator Brian Nieves and Jessica Johnson of his staff for forwarding a copy of the Resolution.
In this case, there was a stipulation: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this application shall be deemed null and void, rescinded and of no effect in the event that such convention not be limited to such specific and exclusive purpose…”
Considering, the Constitution limits what the Federal Government can do, Article V tells Congress that it “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments”
I don’t see anywhere in that text an option for Congress to stipulate or list the subject, topic, or number of amendments that may be proposed and submitted to the States for ratification. And considering the 1983 Missouri Resolution specifically voids itself if the subject is not limited to a balanced budget amendment, I can only surmise that the Resolution is already void. How can Congress call a Convention for Proposing Amendments when the execution of that ‘call’ immediately voids the approval of one of the States’ call for that Convention?
For the current consideration of HCR 19, I do not see such a self-nullifying clause. There is a clause specifying that the Convention shall only consider the subject of requiring State approval to increase the Federal debt.
Does this clause allow Congress to call for the convention to Propose Amendments? Yes, the Missouri Resolution allows for a call of a Constitutional Convention to Propose Amendments.
But, once the Convention is called, and since the Missouri Resolution does not automatically void itself, what (legally) stops a delegate from California from offering an Amendment to Repeal the 2nd Amendment? Congress can’t stop it. The delegates can’t stop it. The States can’t stop it. What can? Nothing!
And therein lies the danger, conundrum, and catch-22 of the Constitutional Convention. If you open that can of worms, you may be opening Pandora’s Box.