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Convention of states would be 'spinal transplant' for feds, Coburn says

The following was written by Zach Pluhacek and published on the Lincoln Journal Star.

A convention of states to amend the U.S Constitution would amount to a "spinal transplant" for Washington, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said Tuesday.

Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and medical doctor, spoke to a few dozen people who gathered in the Capitol Rotunda in Lincoln to support a Nebraska legislative resolution calling for a convention of states to propose constitutional limits on the power of the federal government.

"It's very clear to me that we have a problem, and part of the problem is Washington, D.C., and what goes on there," said state Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, who sponsored the resolution (LR35).

Five state legislatures have approved similar measures. It would take support from 34 states to trigger a convention.

Opponents say a convention called for under Ebke's resolution would threaten critical federal funds for programs like Social Security, Medicare and farm subsidies. In addition, they warn of the possibility for a "runaway convention" that exceeds its initial scope and even endangers components of the Bill of Rights, like the Second Amendment.

But it only takes 13 states to block any amendment that would be proposed from the convention, Coburn said, and state legislatures could control who represents them.

"The greater risk is to let what's happening now continue," he said.

That includes the $19 trillion national debt, "land grabs" by the federal government and a rules and regulations process that effectively allows the executive branch to pass laws without approval from Congress, he said.

A convention of states is about "restoring the power where it was intended to be," he said.

Coburn, now on staff with the national Convention of States Project, was a provocative presence in the Senate before he retired in 2014. A Washington Post article that year likened replacing him to "replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court" in the minds of some conservatives. Scalia died last week.

After Tuesday's event, John Hancock of Plattsmouth — whose driver's license proves he shares his name with the famous Declaration of Independence signer — called a convention of states "a peaceful way" to achieve its goals.

But it will happen "with a ballot or a bullet," he said.

"The founders, the true patriots, did they not stand at Lexington and Concord and face down tyranny?"

Ebke put her measure's odds of passing around 50/50. 

It advanced from a legislative committee last year and is expected to be debated in the next few weeks. Ebke asked proponents to urge their senators — even those who don't support the resolution — to at least let it reach a vote.

"Is this really something you want to filibuster?"

Want your state to get involved like Nebraska? Click the button below to sign the Convention of States petition!