Wednesday, September 08, 2010

US Constitution Series, Article V


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.
This Article provides for four methods of amending the Constitution:
  • 2/3 both houses of Congress plus 3/4 of the states' legislatures;
  • 2/3 both houses of Congress plus 3/4 of states' conventions;
  • national convention plus 3/4 of the states' legislatures; and
  • national convention plus 3/4 of the states' conventions.
So far, only one has been used, 2/3 both houses of Congress plus 3/4 of the states' legislatures. Political types are scared of the idea of a national convention, because they don't know what wacky things might be proposed. An individual mandate for health insurance coverage, for example. [Heavy sarcasm intended.]

While it clear that a national convention would be called at the request of 2/3 of the states' legislatures, the makeup and credentials for such a convention are unspecified. It is also unspecified how state conventions are to be called or delegates selected. Presumably the legislatures would call them, but what would stop governors from calling their own? Can the federal government pass laws defining these matters? I have not located any Congressional attempt to do so.

There are more questions than answers with any method of amendment other than the one traditionally used. Even so, there are questions with the traditionally employed method, such as how long do the states have to ratify by 3/4? Forever? A reasonable time? A time set by Congress?

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