May no new thing arise.
People don’t like change. Period. We like what we know, and dislike what we don’t. As Jefferson put it “…mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
So what’s insufferable? How about, for openers, $18 trillion in debt and looming bankruptcy? Thus the birth of the Federal Assembly.
It is a new thing, consisting of the leaders of the 50 state legislatures, meeting to discuss their responsibilities under Article V. The Delegates to the Federal Assembly are the Presiding Officers of the 99 state legislative chambers. They are elected by their members when their legislative chamber organizes. They meet, voluntarily, where and when they choose, and discuss whatever they collectively agree to discuss. Their first meeting, in San Diego on July 25th, has been called to take up the proposition that Article V Amendment Conventions should be conducted with One State, One Vote, and that topics of discussion at such Conventions shall be strictly limited by the language of the Resolutions which called them. If the Delegates to San Diego wish, they can take up other matters as well, such as what, exactly, would qualify as germane under a call for a Balanced Budget Amendment.
Lord willing, the San Diego meeting won’t be the last for the Federal Assembly. Prior to the 2016 legislative season, another meeting will almost certainly be needed, probably in conjunction with the December NCSL meeting. Ideally, the second meeting of the Federal Assembly will be held at the Capitol in Annapolis.
If there is an Amendment Convention next year there might not be a need for a 2016 meeting of the Federal Assembly. But in any year in which an Amendment Convention is not held, the Federal Assembly should meet. It should discuss what sorts of Article V Resolutions need to be pursued. Even assuming a BBA has been proposed and ratified, much more will need to be done to restore constitutional government in this country. The Federal Assembly is the perfect forum for such discussions.
What other functions could be performed by the Federal Assembly? Here’s a possibility. The BBA could include a provision that gives it temporary veto power over federal appropriations. If Congress passes a budget that is in violation of the BBA, you wouldn’t go to court to challenge it. You’d go the Federal Assembly, which would have the power to enforce the terms of the Balanced Budget Amendment. It could supervise the transfer of federal lands to the states, if so authorized by an Amendment. It could do whatever a Constitutional Amendment empowered it to do.
Every member of a state legislature takes an oath, and swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States — including Article V, which places the ultimate responsibility for preserving and protecting the Constitution on these same state legislators. The Federal Assembly is a mechanism for them to exercise this power, and fulfill their responsibility. It has always existed, inchoate and unborn, in Article V.
It comes to life in San Diego.