Republican legislators in twelve states have a chance to dramatically change the political landscape for the 2016 elections. They have the power to tilt the table, to shift the political debate in their favor. In about seven months we’ll know if they’ve seized this opportunity.
Deficit spending and the national debt will play a big role in the next Presidential election, especially for Republicans. All or almost all of the Republicans will support a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Constitution. But they’ve been talking about this for forty years, so it’s a throwaway line in a stump speech.
Unless. Article V is a way for the States to bypass Congress and propose Constitutional Amendments themselves. 24 of the required 34 States have passed Resolutions calling for an Amendment Convention to propose a BBA. An Article V Coalition* has formed to seek passage of such Resolutions in twelve additional states. Thanks to the 2014 wave, Republicans are in complete control of all of them. (They are VA, WV, WI, SC, OK, AZ, ND, SD, WY, MT, UT, and ID — three purple, nine red.) Sponsors have been identified, bills drafted, legislative strategies devised, and grass roots support mobilized. The goal is at least ten more Resolution s by early summer.
If the Coalition is successful, in June of 2015 the House Judiciary Committee will aggregate them, and recommend to the full House a time and place for the Amendment Convention, and a means of ratification. Ratification by State Convention, which was used for the 21st Amendment, would be quick and easy, and thus the obvious choice. For Republicans, this method has tremendous political appeal. Members of the Article V Coalition are in close contact with leaders in both chambers, on key committees, and are assured of a warm reception. It is in everyone’s best interest that this all go smoothly.
In the summer and early fall of 2015 all 50 State Legislatures will meet to choose their delegates, and to instruct them. Late in the year, or early in 2016 — just as the Presidential campaigns are heating up — the First Amendment Convention in our history would convene, elect officers, adopt rules, and deliberate on the language of the Amendment. Voting will be by State, and when 26 agree on a proposal it will be sent to the States for ratification and the Convention will adjourn.
The election of delegates to the State Ratification Conventions will take place in all 50 States on election day, November 8, 2016. The only issue in these elections will be the proposed Amendment: yea or nay. The Republican Presidential nominee will stress his or her embrace of the Amendment. They may well have had a hand in drafting it. Republican Congressional candidates will urge ratification as well. The fact that for the first time in American history the States will be exercising their supervisory power over the federal government — the power granted them by Article V — will give the ratification fight an added dimension. It might well drive turnout on the Republican side.
Currently the only organized opposition to the Article V Coalition is the John Birch Society and the Eagle Forum. As organizations they are in decline, but are still a force in Oklahoma, Arizona, and the mountain west. The Coalition is confident that it has the resources to overcome these political fringe groups.
Article V has the full throated support of conservative talk radio — Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, Beck, Cain, and others. Potential Presidential candidates recognize the attraction of pursuing a BBA through Article V. Senator Paul and Governors Pence, Jindal, Perry and Snyder have declared their support. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently announced that while he is not yet ready to campaign for the Presidency, he will be out campaigning for an Article V BBA.
For two generations polls have shown overwhelming, bipartisan support for a BBA — 80% of Republicans and Independents, 65% of Democrats. The ongoing dysfunction in Washington, and the attendant debt, will only push those numbers higher. For Republicans in 2016, melding their campaigns with the drive for a BBA will be simple and effective.
Only the votes of Republican State Legislators can prevent this from happening.
*Members of the Coalition include the Republican State Leadership Council, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Jefferson Project of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the National Tax Limitation Committee, State Policy Networks in target states, the National Taxpayers Union, the Liberty Congress, IamAmerican, the Article V Caucus, the Reagan Project, and the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force.
P.S. If the 34th State passes its Resolution a year late, in the spring of 2016, much of this analysis will still apply. But elections for the State Ratification Conventions could not take place in November.