In general, Eagle Forum and the Convention of States Project have the same goal: to limit the power of government, starting with the power of the federal government. Thus we agree on a great many things. This is why we, and many Tennessee lawmakers, are frustrated to find Eagle Forum on opposing sides when it comes to the Article V convention of the states to propose amendments.
About two weeks ago, Eagle Forum distributed an e-mail containing incomplete and even false information about the Article V convention of states process. It was the same tired arguments we have seen and heard from Eagle Forum, both nationally and from Tennessee for the last few years (actually, decades).
We wrote a response to that e-mail which we distributed to our supporters. The Tennessee Eagle Forum organization, however, must not have seen that response because last Saturday, Eagle Forum sent out another e-mail which states we have failed to answer their questions.
Thus, we are writing another response. Like last time, we are responding line by line. We want our response to be VERY clear.
Their original e-mail is long, thus this response is even longer. Though we ask your indulgence regarding the length of the response, we do not apologize for the length. We believe the best way to educate is to, well, educate. That takes time and a lot of words to straighten out the misconceptions on the other side.
In this response, we will not only give our side of the facts and to distinguish the differences in the views. We hope that this will help Eagle Forum and others who read this response, where the real “core” differences exist. Unfortunately, we cannot understand all of the reasoning behind the Eagle Forum statements. We can only proclaim the truth and how that truth differs from their position.
We have been accused by some people of just being a slick marketing machine who are bent on fooling as many people as possible – implying that we really do not know the history behind our positions. Thus we will provide as many links as possible to support our statements.
It is our hope that this response will help bring Eagle Forum into the much larger group of limited government organizations and leaders who have joined the Convention of States Project.
Here we go. The e-mail starts with the bill summary from the General Assembly website.
Eagle Forum E-mail:
CONVENTION OF THE STATES;
SJR 0067 by *Bell
Constitutional Amendments - As introduced, makes application for the calling of an Article V convention under the United States Constitution to consider amendments to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.
COS Response:As we start, please note the very careful wording in the bill summary from the General Assembly website: “… a convention to consider amendments to …”. Per Article V, this is a convention of states to consider (and propose) amendments, not write a new constitution. Note the limited topics of the convention:
Impose fiscal RESTRAINTS on the federal government.
Any amendment considered under this topic must RESTRAIN fiscal matters. It must restrain spending or it must restrain taxation, or both. Under this, we can include a balanced budget amendment. No amendment can be considered which increases spending or which increases taxation.
LIMIT the power and jurisdiction of the federal government
Any amendment considered under this topic must LIMIT the power (what the federal government can do in an area where it claims it can operate) and jurisdiction (the areas in which the federal government claims it can operate.) No amendment can be even considered which increases the power or jurisdiction of the federal government.
LIMIT the terms of office for its officers and for members of Congress.
Federal officials includes all members of both the Judicial and Executive branches. Members of Congress includes, of course, both federal Senators and Representatives.
Eagle Forum E-mail:
The Constitutional Convention issue …
COS Response: We can’t get more than a few words into the Eagle Forum e-mail before we have to start responding. The first mistake Eagle Forum makes is to use terms not found in the constitution itself. Article V uses the term “convention to propose amendments”. Does Eagle Forum use a constitutional term for a constitutional process? No. They use the phrase “constitutional convention”. Why not use the phrase the Founders put in Article V? Because they want you to (falsely) associate the convention to propose amendments with the convention most people know about, the 1787 convention, which happens to be one of only two conventions which can be called a “constitutional convention” because the convention’s purpose was to write a new constitution. (The other “constitutional convention” resulted in the Articles of Confederation).
The 1787 convention and the convention to propose amendments are VERY different from each other:
1787 Convention Purpose: The 1787 convention had a purpose to write a new constitution. The delegates from 9 of the 11 States participating in the 1787 convention were empowered by their legislatures to meet the “exigencies of the nation”. Two of the states instructed their delegates “to amend the Articles of Confederation”. Those two states were simply outvoted by the other nine states at the 1787 convention. More about the state instructions later.
Article V Convention of States Purpose: The Article V convention to propose amendments is just that – a convention to consider and propose amendments “to THIS constitution”. It is NOT to write a new constitution.
Source of Authority
1787 Source of Authority: The 1787 Philadelphia convention was called by the states under their reserved sovereign powers. Unfortunately, many of the naysayers will raise an objection to this very simple statement. Many of them will say the 1787 convention was called by the Continental Congress. It was not. It was called by the states. Here are the details to back that up:
Question 1, who called the 1787 Convention? There are some naysayers who will tell you that the Continental Congress called the convention via the February 21, 1787 letter from Congress to the States. History says otherwise. Here are the facts:
The 1787 Philadelphia convention, to be held on the second Monday in May, was first proposed by the delegates who attended the 1786 convention at Annapolis (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/annapoli.asp.)
A few weeks later, on November 23, 1786, Virginia issued the first call to the other states to attend the convention http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/docs/ActAppointing.pdf. In that call, they named their delegates and empowered them to “render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the nation”. Five other states joined in that call BEFORE Congress even took up the issue.
New Jersey on November 24, 1786:http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst3.pdf
Pennsylvania on December 30, 1786:http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst4.pdf
North Carolina on January 6, 1787:http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst5.pdf
Delaware on February 3, 1787:http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst6.pdf
Georgia on February 10, 1787:http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst7.pdf
It was only AFTER all of these calls had been made that Congress sent out the February 21, 1787 letter to the states.
It is clear from this timeline that the States, and in particular Virginia, called the 1787 convention, not Congress. In fact, the call for the convention, including both the date and the topic, can be traced back to the 1786 Annapolis convention, which Congress had nothing to do with!
Question 2: who had the power to call the 1786 convention? The naysayers also fail to recognize that Congress had no power to call the convention. The Continental Congress received ALL of its enumerated powers from the Articles of Confederation. Nowhere in the Articles of Confederation was Congress given any power to call any convention of any kind. However, under Article 2 of the AOC, it is made clear that the states retain their sovereign power: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” It was under their retained sovereign power that the States, and NOT Congress, called the convention.
Question 3: What was the scope of the convention?The States all agreed the Articles of Confederation were not working. However, there were differences on how to solve the problem. New York and Massachusetts wanted to limit the convention to only amending the Articles of Confederation. The other states were open to writing a completely new Constitution. New York asked Congress to weigh in on the debate, hoping they would be successful in limiting the topic to only amending the Articles of Confederation. There was some considerable debate in Congress about this on February 21, 1787 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/const04.asp. The final result of the debate was that Congress issued the following statement to the States:
“Whereas there is provision in the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the assent of a Congress of the United States and of the legislatures of the several States; And whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which several of the States and particularly the State of New York by express instructions to their delegates in Congress have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution and such convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government.
Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.”
The letter was a mealy-mouthed, politically worded “opinion” of Congress. They used BOTH the language New York wanted AND the language of the other states who had already issued calls (who were using the language from the Annapolis convention). It was a politically expedient letter which got Congress out of a bind. It has already been shown that the letter from Congress had no authority in the first place. How did the rest of the States who had not already issued calls respond to the letter? Did they see it as authoritative?
Not surprisingly, New York and Massachusetts BOTH issued instructions to their delegates which included the language “for the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation”. Massachusetts issued their call on February 22, 1787. http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst11.pdf. New York issued their call on February 28, 1787.
The remaining states, however, did NOT include the language “for the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation” in the operative language of their instructions. They instead included the language first proposed by the other six states prior to the language of Congress. In other words, they ignored the “Sole and express purpose” language in the letter from Congress.
South Carolina, on March 8, 1787 issued the next call to join the convention. http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst12.pdf. The operative language was as follows: “… devising and discussing all such alterations, clauses, articles and provisions as may be thought necessary to render the foederal constitution entirely adequate to the actual situation and future good government of the confederated states, and that the said deputies or commissioners, or a majority of those who shall be present, provided the state be not represented by less than two, do join in reporting such an act to the united states in congress assembled, as when approved and agreed to by them, and duly ratified and confirmed by the several states, will effectually provide for the exigencies of the union
Connecticut, on May 17, 1787 issued the next call. http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst13.pdf . The “Whereas” section does refer to the letter from Congress and even quotes the “sole and express purpose” language. But do they follow that language? No. The “Therefore” section does not include that language. The operative language is: “to render the foederal Constitution adequate to the Exigencies of Government, and the Preservation of the Union; and they are further directed, pursuant to the said Act of Congress, to report such Alterations and Provisions, as may be agreed to, by a Majority of the united States represented in Convention, to the Congress of the United States, and to the General Assembly of this State”.
Maryland, on May 26, 1787 issued the last call. http://csac.history.wisc.edu/delegate_inst14.pdf. This call does not use the language “sole and express purpose…” at all. The operative language is as follows: “for the purpose of revising the federal system, and to join with them in considering such alterations, and further provisions, as may be necessary to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the union.”
It is clear from the wording of the operative language in these calls that the other three states essentially ignored the wording of the letter from Congress.
Thus, the topic of the convention, according to 9 states was to create a new constitution. The other two states got outvoted at the convention and the convention went on to write a new constitution. In the end, all 13 states ended up ratifying the constitution.
Source of Authority for the Article V Convention of States: it is clear that the Article V convention gets its authority from the Constitution itself. When the States invoke the Article V convention process, they are doing so under the authority of the Constitution, not under their sovereign authority. They are thus limited by the processes in Article V – including most importantly the ratification processes.
Eagle Forum e-mail:<The Constitutional Convention issue> …has been around for more than forty years,
COS Response: In fact, it has been around for more than 50 years. If you really want to split hairs, the Article V process has been around and has been leveraged since the 1780’s and 1790’s. In fact, Virginia passed the first Article V application calling for the Bill of Rights. They did so because Congress was dragging its heels proposing the Bill of Rights. After Virginia passed the Article V application, Congress got on the ball and proposed them.
But the reason we have not had an Article V convention in the last five decades or so is because limited government leaders and groups bought into the lies of the larger-government forces who were the first to suggest the whole runaway convention idea in the first place. ( http://constitution.i2i.org/files/2015/03/Campaign-Against-Article-V.pdf). That’s right, the limited government groups in our country, including in particular Eagle Forum, have been carrying water for those who want to protect the overreaching federal government. We did not do our research. Because of that, we bought into the lies and have failed to use the Article V convention of the states before now. We should have done so many times in the 1900’s like we should have! Shame on us for taking so long to learn our history!
Eagle Forum e-mail:in fact the last thing I did before leaving Lexington, KY, in 1986, was to help defeat a call for such a convention.
COS Response:Eagle Forum was not alone in their efforts to stop Article V convention applications. Virtually every limited government group in the country was working to stop the states from using the Article V convention process. However, as the truth has come out, there has been an abrupt turnabout among virtually all limited government groups. Eagle Forum is finding itself increasingly isolated in their views concerning Article V.
Eagle Forum e-mail:This newest push generally started with Mark Levin's book, The Liberty Amendments,which he constantly focused on and promoted in his national radio program.
COS Response. Eagle Forum states that all of this started with the book the Liberty Amendments and, by these statements, implies that the whole effort is the brainchild of only one person, Mark Levin.
They also imply that he has “constantly” focused on it and promoted it. Anyone who knows anything about radio knows that talk show hosts who talk too much about a single topic do not remain on the air very long. It is an understatement to say that Eagle Forum’s statements are an exaggeration!
The whole implication of this entire sentence is to say that we are all just sycophants of Mark Levin. None of this is true.
In fact, the Convention of States Project started several months before Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendmentswas released. Mark Levin heard about the Convention of States Project when he was in the middle of final edits and publishing of Liberty Amendments, but could not say anything to anyone in the COSP until he was out of his required “blackout” period prior to the release. It was only after the release that Mark Levin and the Founder of the COSP, Mike Farris (Founder and Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Founder of the national Homeschool Legal Defense Association) spoke to each other about the project. They found out that they had separately reached the same conclusions about Article V at the same time. By that time, the COSP was already organizing in several states and Mark Levin eagerly endorsed the project and joined the project’s Board of Legal Reference.
Of course, it has been helpful to have Mark Levin speaking about the effort on his show. We gladly accept any positive promotion of the project. After all, we are out to save our Republic! Any national figure or talk show host speaking about the project just helps speed the process of educating the public!
Eagle Forum email:As time went on various nationally known names joined the course of voices calling for a convention of the states (COS).
COS Response: Yes, the list of people who have come to understand the truth behind the Article V convention process has become quite long. This is in large part due to the Mark Levin’s influence with other national leaders, but it is not just Mark Levin. It is also because of the scholarly researchers, such as Dr. Rob Natelson. It is also because of the extensive grassroots effort of the national project who have grabbed the attention of national leaders. The long list of national leaders recently grew to include Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, Senator Marco Rubio and Economist Thomas Sowell. In fact, supporting the COSP is becoming a required “credential” if a national leader wants to be viewed as supporting limited government policies.
Eagle Forum email:And that made it's [sic] way to Tennessee a couple of years ago.
COS Response: Tennessee’s COSP organization happened to have been started right around the time Mark Levin’s book was released. More importantly, the groundwork for Article V in Tennessee was being laid prior to that, but for another application – the application for a balanced budget. (That application passed the Senate and the House virtually unanimously – over the stringent objections of Eagle Forum.) There were many Article V meetings across the state already occurring even before the COSP project got off the ground in Tennessee. We are thankful to those who laid some of that ground work. It has made our work that much easier.
Eagle Forum e-mail:Tuesday was a very interesting in that Noah and I spent all morning trying seeing legislators to express our concerns about SJR67.
COS Response:Bobbie Patray is an effective lobbyist who is loved by many on “the Hill”. In fact, we would love to have her and Eagle Forum on our side! But, alas, she seems to only be “digging in her heels”. We seem to only be able to hope that Noah, Bobbie’s intern, has an open mind, reads this response and does not just listen to the Eagle Forum side.
Eagle Forum e-mail:We saw those members of the State Government Committee who were available before the committee met at high noon. We did learn that at least some of the lawmakers had received emails and phone calls from 'both sides' of the issue.
COS Response:Yes, some national groups had been sending emails and calling into the state. They did get some unsuspecting souls to call. Of course, Eagle Forum’s e-mails probably also generated some calls. We, on the other hand were “playing it cool” with our lawmakers, since we already had a majority of the members of the committee as cosponsors.
Eagle Forum e-mail:At the appointed hour, the hearing room was packed with folks wearing their 'support COS' buttons! I will give them credit for getting their folks there!
COS Response:Yes, we have thousands of passionate volunteers supporting the project. Some of them came from as far away as the tri-cities area and the Memphis area. They did not want to miss this historic event.
Eagle Forum e-mail:Of course having local popular radio personalities pushing the issue appearing at Townhall meetings that were also broadcast to radio listeners certainly helped.
COS Response. Yes, talk show hosts Phil Valentine and Michael DelGiorno are among the growing list of national and Tennessee leaders supporting the Convention of States Project. Of course we welcome their on-air contributions, including promoting the project through the Town Hall broadcast on January 19. This just points out how Eagle Forum is becoming more and more isolated in their anti-Article-V position.
Eagle Forum E-mail.House Sponsor Shelia Butt presented the bill …
COS Response:Representative Butt is a stalwart among limited government forces in Tennessee. She and other like-minded State Senators and Representatives have expressed dismay at Eagle Forum’s continued insistence on opposing the Article V convention process.
We give much honor to any state lawmaker who is willing to stand in front of their peers and present any resolution or bill, much less one with the signficant implications as this resolution. Having been in that room, we can attest to how difficult it is to “think on your feet” when responding to questions. [In fact, there were a couple of mis-statements in the discussion (on both sides), but none so significant as to change the overall tenor of the discussion and the outcome of the vote.] In spite of the fact that two lawmakers were not available due to illness and that this committee has a high number of representatives who seek a larger role for the federal government, the resolution still passed.
Eagle Forum E-mail. … and two other men testified, one of whom was Mark Mechler, who is president fo the Citizens for Self Government and co-founder of Convention of the States Project. A lively debate took place which you can watch here. The out of town supporters of COS have done an excellent job of making their case and making it seem as if a Convention of the States if the last great hope for this nation.
COS Response:It does not just “seem as if a Convention of the States is [sic] the last great hope for this nation” -- it is!!
We take strong exception to Ms. Patray’s characterizations. In these statements, Ms. Patray underestimates and even disrespects the huge and growing COSP grassroots organization in Tennessee. She implies that the movement is led by slick-talking outsiders who are misleading the COSP volunteers in Tennessee. Ms. Patray implies that these outsiders have made us believe a lie and that we are unable to think for ourselves based on facts and history. She is flat out wrong. She owes us an apology.
Importantly, Ms. Patray does not take the time to know and introduce one of the speakers in her email. She must assume he is also an outsider. That would be false.
The first person to testify was Scott Williams, the VOLUNTEERTennessee State Director for the Convention of States Project. Mr. Williams gave up two full days of his personal time, and at his own expense, drove over from Maryville to testify at the hearing and to speak with Representatives. He has spent literally thousands of hours on this project in just over two years – without compensation. Mr. Williams is a true hero – both as an Army Helicopter search-and-rescue pilot and as an expert on the constitution and American history. He has grown the database of supporters in Tennessee from zero to well over 12,000 people. He has also worked to organize a large and growing statewide organization of well over 100 leaders and over a thousand volunteers within that database of 12,000 supporters.
Mark Meckler, the President of Citizens for Self-Governance, the parent organization of the Convention of States Project, travels the country speaking with lawmakers and other leaders as well as working with grassroots leaders who need help learning how to grow and lead their organizations. Prior to joining CSG, Mr. Meckler helped start the Tea Party Patriots organization and grew it to over 24 million members. You will not find a more humble and yet effective patriot leader. We take huge exception to the mis-characterization of Mr. Meckler – as if he is a pied piper leading us astray.
Eagle Forum E-mail.That being said, I still have never received an appropriate answer to very my first question: If congress isn't following the Constitution now, what makes us think they WILL follow it when it is amended??
COS Response:As the warden in the movie Cool Hand Lukesaid: "What we have here is a failure to communicate."Eagle Forum has asked this question in various forms over the years. The more common form of the question is “they don’t follow it now, why would they follow it after we amend it?” This question has been answered MANY times from many different angles. Eagle Forum simply refuses to listen to reason. But we will try again.
Reason 1:Underneath the question, Eagle Forum implies that amendments would not work. You be the judge. Although as an organization we don’t support any specific amendment, all of the following possible amendments could be raised at a convention called under our application:
• Repeal of the 16th amendment (income taxes)
• Repeal of the 17th amendment (direct election of Senators)
• Term limits for congress, both Senate and House
• Term limits for any Federal Judge, including the Supreme Court
• Term limits for any one working as staff or administrative support to judges and members of Congress.
• Sunset all federal agencies every few years, forcing them to start at ground zero and justify their very existence each time
• Provide mechanisms for Congress or the States to overturn a bad Supreme Court ruling
• Stop the Federal Government from being involved in anything that the individual states can do for themselves (removing concurrent jurisdiction.)
• Eliminate the EPA, the Department of Education, Department of Energy etc.
• Balance the budget and limit their ability to tax, forcing them to cut spending instead of simply raising taxes
• Stop the Supreme Court from ruling on cultural issues belonging to the States, including overturning prior decisions.
• Force the federal government to sell its land holdings
• Eliminate the federal policing force
You get the picture. These kinds of amendments are needed and would have a significant impact on federal overreach. It is simply false to say these types of amendments would not be beneficial. Yes, the federal government will attempt to twist and squirm out of any amendment, and possibly over time might actually be partially successful. We can then just call another convention and stop the overreach again. The convention process was not intended to be a “one and done” event. It was intended to be used by the states whenever the federal government oversteps its bounds.
Reason 2.In asking this question, Ms. Patray and Eagle Forum have failed to identify the cause of the issue. By not seeking the root cause, they have assumed an incorrect premise and thus they ask the wrong question.
The question implies that Congress is not following the 1787 constitution. That is correct. We agree that they are not following the 1787 constitution. And we are not trying to fix the 1787 constitution. What we are trying to fix is the false interpretation of it!
Congress stopped following the 1787 constitution a long time ago. Instead, Congress follows THEIR INTERPRETATION of the constitution. They are even so bold as to publish their interpretation of it. It is commonly called the "Annotated Constitution". It is not the four parchments written in 1787. It's a 2,800+ page tome of considerable weight. It certainly does not fit in your pocket like the 1787 version. You can get a PDF version of it here: https://www.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. It is published every 10 years by order of the U.S. Senate. Addenda are printed every 2 years.
In this book you will see that it is not uncommon for one or two sentences of the 1787 constitution to be followed by tens or even hundreds of pages of Supreme Court interpretation explaining what the federal government believes the Constitution says in that one sentence. Most of that interpretation is false. Whether we like it or agree with it or not, it is this interpretation which Congress -- and the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch -- uses when they ask themselves if their actions are "constitutional".
Ask yourself why addenda need to be published every 2 years. It’s because they have to add NEW Supreme Court interpretations! In effect, the Supreme Court is acting as their own amending convention -- they both propose AND ratify amendments to the interpreted Constitution every time they rule. Those false interpretations are then relied upon by Congress and the Executive Branch as all three branches collude to steal power from the States and rights from the individual.
As limited-government, original-intent constitutionalists, we strongly disagree with their rulings and their interpretation. But they could care less what we think. The issue is that the federal government, and in particular, the Supreme Court believes that they have the power to do what they are doing. They rely on the Supremacy Clause (Article 6, Clause 2) to enforce those false interpretations on the states and the people.
Thus, the federal government is following the constitution -- the interpreted one -- as amended from time to time by the Supreme Court. What we need to fix is the interpretation!
Reason 3: The real question is how do we overturn the Supreme Court's interpretation? There are only two CONSTITUTIONAL methods to correct the false interpretation.
The first method is for the Supreme Court to overrule itself. That won't be happening any time soon.
The second is to amend the constitution using Article V. In fact, as we look back into history, we find that the Founders provided an example of the way to override the Supreme Court with the 11th Amendment! The Supreme Court had ruled in a case concerning whether States could be sued. The States vehemently disagreed with the ruling. Did the States attempt Nullification? No. Did the States rise up in arms? No. Instead, they appealed to Congress to propose an amendment. At the time, the Congress was full of original Founders and thus was constitutionally minded. They quickly proposed the 11th amendment and the States quickly ratified it.
The problem we have now is that Congress is no longer constitutionally minded. This means that if the States are to get needed amendments to overturn the Supreme Court, they must go around Congress using the other method to propose amendments -- the convention of the states.
Reason 4:History shows that amendments work! Even with all of the false interpretations and the stretching of the meaning of words by the Supreme Court, it is clear that all of the prior amendments are working. For instance, women are voting, blacks are voting, slavery has been outlawed, Presidents are limited to two terms, the voting age is now 18 and many more. Yes, the Supreme Court has used false interpretations of the 14th amendment and other clauses in the Constitution to overstep its bounds and they are constantly attempting to whittle away at the boundaries of the amendments, but it is a false statement to say they IGNORE amendments. That is simply not true. Amendments do work, even for the current scoundrels in Washington. Our objective is to write clear amendments which cannot be falsely interpreted (unlike the 14th amendment). When written clearly, amendments have worked and will continue to work.
The question is not whether Congress follows the 1787 constitution. The answer to that is obvious. They don't. That is not the right question.
Instead, the right questions are: 1) How do we overturn the Supreme Court? 2) Do amendments work? and 3) How do we get needed amendments? Now that we have asked the right questions, the answers are obvious: 1) We overturn the Supreme Court with amendments. 2) Amendments do work. 3) Congress will NEVER propose amendments needed to correct the misinterpretations, amendments which would limit the power of Congress. 4) Thus, the States must do it instead.
Eagle Forum E-mail:Nor my second question about actually balancing the budget: Recognizing that TN receives approximately 40% of its budget from the federal government, which of these federal programs would TN be willing to decline to help balance the budget?? Crickets!!
COS Response: “Crickets!!” Really? This question has been answered many times over the years. We attempted to answer this question last week, but the message did not get through. The issue is not “crickets” for responses, it’s the ear plugs in the listener’s ears! But, again, we will try once more.
What is truly surprising is that Eagle Forum seems to imply that Tennessee is “stuck” taking federal funds. Does Eagle Forum propose any alternate solution? No.
A related question is this: Why doesn't Tennessee just stop taking federal money?
Ms. Patray must not have watched the debate on SJR0067 on the Senate floor in 2015. She is asking virtually the same question asked by Democratic Senator Kyle. This question was answered clearly and succinctly in that discussion.
The states have allowed themselves to be bribed by federal tax dollars for many decades now. The federal government has effectively pitted the States against one another. If Tennessee refuses to accept the bribes, then the money taken by the federal government out of the wallet of Tennessee citizens through income taxes and other taxes will simply go to other States.
Even if Tennessee were to stop taking federal bribes, the only way to make up the shortfall in many programs would be to raise taxes on Tennessee citizens. The citizens of Tennessee are taxed so heavily already by the federal government, there is no way the citizens would allow taxes to be raised by the State.
The practical reality is that as long as the federal government believes they have the power to bribe states to do the will of the federal government, they will do so. The ONLY way to stop this mess is to get the federal government completely out of the jurisdiction of the States -- so that NO STATE benefits from federal bribes. It must be an all-or-nothing fix.
Because of their false interpretations of the constitution, the federal government continues to believe it can and should be involved in areas where jurisdiction and power truly belong only to the states, according to original intent. The ONLY way to solve the issue of the federal government bribing the states is to override the federal government's false interpretations of the constitution -- and remove their power and jurisdiction.
The ONLY way to reverse the federal government’s false interpretations is to add amendments which restore original intent and override the false interpretations of the Supreme Court. We need to follow the example the Founders gave us with the 11th amendment.
Eagle Forum E-mail.How effective the out-of-town COS supporters have been becomes clear when I am speaking with our legislators. They will inevitably ask is: "Just exactly what are you AFRAID of?" COS opponents are successfully being painted as fearmongers. We are not and …
COS Response.Eagle Forum has already questioned the intelligence and even the integrity of the COSP volunteers and the COSP national staff. Incredibly, Eagle Forum is now turning its sights on our Tennessee lawmakers by implying that they have somehow allowed themselves to be “tricked” into thinking that Eagle Forum and other groups are afraid and spreading their fear. Is it not possible that our State Representatives came to this conclusion on their own? Our representatives are asking the right question: What is Eagle Forum afraid of?
Eagle Forum E-mail.I always explain that I just have some concerns that I don't believe have been adequately answered, …
COS Response:Concerns == fear. Eagle Forum confirms they are afraid. Now, let’s dig into that fear as they continue on.
Eagle Forum E-mail: … nor do I believe that they [her concerns] can be [adequately answered] since we have never done this before. I know that the COS supporters believe that this entire process can be tightly controlled, but if it is, it will the first large, nation wide [sic] activity that has ever been pulled off as planned.
COS Response:Yes, an Article V convention has never been called before. But it is utterly false to say that we can’t answer questions about how it will be executed. Another group in Tennessee recently phrased this same question another way: why would we trust our constitution to an untested convention process?
Let’s be clear about this: The Founders selected the convention process because it HAD been tested! Do you think the very wise Founders at the 1787 convention who produced the U.S. Constitution, the greatest man-made governing document in the history of the world, would have suggested an untested and unknown process for amending that very same document? Of course not!! To suggest otherwise is to dishonor the Founders themselves.
Interstate conventions were HEAVILY TESTED prior to 1787. There were about 30 interstate conventions in the 100 years prior to 1787. In fact, the colonies, and later the states, conducted interstate conventions about every 40 months on average. In the 11 years between 1776 and 1787, there were 11 interstate conventions – about 1 per year. “Conventioneering” was commonplace in the founding era. Most of the Founders at the 1787 Philadelphia convention had attended one or more interstate conventions prior to 1787. Roger Sherman was on his 6th interstate convention when he attended the 1787 convention. Thus, when the Founders used the phrase “convention to propose amendments” in Article V, they were carefully selecting the most TRUSTED and TESTED process they knew for states to gather and decide on issues.
The Founders fully expected the states to use an Article V convention as a safe way for the people to be represented in the process of proposing amendments. They realized that this process may be needed if a time should come that Congress and the federal government engaged in tyranny and, of course, would refuse to offer amendments to overturn that tyranny. The Founders wanted a bloodless, “regular” process by which the people could take back stolen power and end the tyranny.
The interstate convention process they chose had an overwhelming body of common practices and procedures. This was not some crazy, unknown, untested idea. It had been used by the Founders repeatedly.
What’s more, the interstate convention process has been used many times since 1787. The most recent convention was held in 1922, the interstate convention to write the Colorado River Compact.
Here are some of the most important features of EVERY interstate convention prior to 1787 and after 1787:
-- ALL interstate conventions have been one-state, one-vote. The voting has NEVER been based on population or Electoral College counts. This is a convention of STATES, not electors or even delegates.
-- ALL interstate conventions have been limited to a topic in the calls for the convention and ALL conventions have stayed within their topics.
-- The states have ALWAYS selected their own delegates (technically, commissioners). No other body has EVER selected delegates for the state – particularly not Congress.
-- The states have ALWAYS set the procedural rules at EVERY interstate convention. No other body has EVER determined the rules – particularly not Congress.
-- The states, through their commissioners, have ALWAYS selected their own leaders at the convention.
Interstate conventions have not been held in recent decades, but that does not make them mysterious, unknown processes. Eagle Forum is depending on the fact that most people living today were not living when the last interstate convention occurred. They want to capitalize on that fear of the unknown. They certainly do not bring up any of this history of interstate conventions – because that would remove the fear and that would prevent them from capitalizing on that fear.
Did the Founders just get a wild hair when they chose to insert the convention method for proposing amendments? Of course not! The Founders selected the right tool for the job. In fact, the Founders selected that process UNANIMOUSLY and WITHOUT DEBATE! They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. They selected the tool which would help the people, through their state legislatures, decide HOW to rein in an out-of-control federal government.
Eagle Forum and other groups cannot seem to think hard enough to ask some basic questions about the convention of states process in Article V. Why did the Founders choose an interstate convention as a method to propose amendments? What did the Founders mean when they decided to use the words “convention of states” in Article V? What was the Founders’ prior experience with conventions which would shed light on their choice? Why does Eagle Forum fail to ask these very basic questions? More importantly, why do they fail to ask these basic questions when so many groups and leaders in the last decade or so have been asking these questions and coming up with solid answers from historical records? The answer is simple: Eagle Forum does not truly trust the Founders! In effect, Eagle Forum is saying that the Founders had no idea what they were doing when they UNANIMOUSLY inserted the convention of states method for proposing amendments at the 1787 convention.
Eagle Forum further implies that NONE of the state ratifying conventions caught this supposed drastic error in judgement – that of selecting an untested process. To suggest that all of these smart founders missed such a supposedly glaring mistake in Article V is just plain ludicrous.
Eagle Forum might say they believe in the 1787 Constitution. Yet, here they are telling people to ignore a portion of that very same document!
The issue here is that Eagle Forum does not know (or conveniently chooses to ignore) history because it does not fit their narrative of fear. They are trying to use their narrative of fear to slow down or even to try to stop the work of another, well-meaning limited government group --namely the Convention of States Project.
Eagle Forum’s research is WAY out of date. They are relying on “runaway convention” talking points first promulgated over 50 years ago by groups seeking more power for the federal government: http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/rob-natelson/how-liberal-propagandists-suckered-conservatives-opposing-amendments . Simply put, Eagle Forum is carrying the water for larger-government forces.
Eagle Forum E-mail: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..........." It seems to me that the language is pretty clear here and I don't know how ANY state law can change this stated sequence. "The Congress..shall call". Think on that a minute.
COS Response:We have thought on this for MUCH more than a minute. In fact, we have dwelt on this question for hours and hours – because we have to keep answering the same questions over and over. If we only had a dime for each time! Maybe they will listen this time.
Eagle Forum seems to assert that the states have no control over the convention. This assertion flies in the face of the clear language of Article V.
Article V sets out two methods for proposing amendments. The first method is for both houses of Congress to propose amendments by a 2/3 majority vote. The second method is for the states to apply to Congress for a convention of states to propose amendments. Congress collects and counts those applications and when there are enough applications on the same topic, Congress “shall call” a convention.
Eagle Forum wants to plant a seed of fear and doubt – what exactly does Congress control when it “calls” the convention? Does “call” mean that Congress could control every aspect of the convention? Now, let’s do that minute of thinking that Eagle Forum asks us to do.
If “call” means that Congress controls the convention, the conclusion must be that Congress controls BOTH methods for proposing amendments! Why would the Founders, who were brilliant men, give Congress a second method to propose amendments, but then ADD the extra hurdle that Congress cannot use that second method until the States apply for the convention? It is just nonsensical.
We have heard Eagle Forum and other groups suggest that Congress could select delegates from each of the states to attend and that Congress could set the rules and that Congress could control the topics which can be introduced and so on. Why would Congress go through all of these extra steps when they could just propose an amendment at any time through the first method? Again, this is just plain silly.
In fact, the suggestion is so silly that by asserting that the word “call” means Congress controls the convention, Eagle Forum essentially makes the Founders out to be morons. Of course, the Founders were anything but morons.
No, the word “call” does NOT mean that Congress controls the convention OF STATES. It means that Congress sets the date and place for the first meeting. After that, the States take over. In fact, this is what happened with the 1921 Colorado River Compact convention. Congress set the date and place for the first meeting. After that, the delegates from the states took over and the meetings actually moved around to several cities during the process.
In the Article V convention process, like ALL prior interstate conventions, the states select their own delegates and provide them instructions. The delegates then follow those instructions when selecting their own leaders. The delegates then follow those instructions to set their own rules. After the first meeting, the delegates even control when and where they will meet next. The facts are clear: the STATES and not Congress control the convention.
Eagle Forum E-mail:We also know as a fact that there are many liberal organizations that are also working in support of such a convention. During the debate in committee at least one of the Democrats mentioned that he would like to see the Constitution amended to overturn the Supreme Court Citizens United decision.
COS Response: Eagle Forum, like other groups who have not yet caught up, makes a HUGE error in logic here, but they hope you will be reading quickly and just miss it.
Yes, there are groups whose purpose is to increase the power of the federal government who ARE trying to get THEIR OWN application on THEIR OWN SEPARATE TOPIC through state legislatures. That application, commonly called the “Wolf-PAC” application, due to the name of the coalition behind it, is limited to the topic of overturning Citizens United versus the FEC.
What does this mean? It means that the forces on the other side have understood that they cannot raise their campaign finance idea at a convention called under the COS application. They have realized that if they want to get their idea into a convention, they must pass their own application.
Notice that they are limiting their application to THEIR topic. They have done so to prevent limited government groups, such as the Convention of State Project, from raising our ideas at a convention under their topic.
In other words, all of these other groups seeking a larger federal government agree that an Article V convention of states will be limited by the topic of the applications from the 34 states. They cannot raise their topic at a convention called under the COS topics and we cannot raise our desired amendments to limit the power of the federal government at a convention called under their topic.
Eagle Forum fails to highlight these facts. In so doing, they are simply spreading fear and innuendo.
By the way, the Wolf-PAC application has passed in four of the most government-controlled states in the country. But they will not ever get past about 11 or so states (if they get that far). They will hit a political wall as most of the other states will NEVER pass that resolution.
Eagle Forum E-mail:Now when the discussion gets to the bottom line their 'safe harbor' is always that we can't have a 'run away' convention because whatever the convention passes must come back to the state legislators for ratification. Not so fast. Article V continues: " when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventionsin three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress;"
So let me understand what the US Constitution states: CONGRESS gets to decide the method of ratification, but even that presupposes that [the] [sic] Convention does not CHANGE the method or requirements for ratification as did the very first Convention when the Constitution was written.
COS Response: It’s good to see at least someone actually READING and quoting Article V. So many of the naysayer groups never even quote Article V. Some credit is due for that step.
We need to start by correcting a statement. Most Convention of States Project supporters have learned not to say “ratification by State Legislatures” but, rather “ratification by the States”. (We still occasionally slip up, though). As is correctly pointed out, the ratification would NOT necessarily be by state legislatures. Congress does get to select the method of ratification (regardless of which method of proposing amendments is used).
Now let’s get to the question behind the question. Here is the scenario implied by the question: 1) the convention “runs away” and proposes “crazy” amendments (which, as discussed above, it will not). 2) Congress sends the proposed amendments to ratification conventions rather than the state legislatures. The suggestion is that “popular” amendments, but which are also outside of the convention topic, could be sent to the state for ratification by the intrastate convention method, where they might be more likely to be ratified. Four points need to be discussed.
Point 1: Congress, at any moment today, could propose any amendment they want, using the first method of proposing amendments. They could then send that proposed amendment to the states to be ratified by intrastate ratification conventions. Why is that not happening today? It would be MUCH easier to do it through the first method – and it could happen immediately! Why is it not happening? First, despite our incredible frustrations with Congress, they are really not all that crazy. (They are outside the bounds of the 1787 constitution, but they do stay within the bounds of the interpreted version.) For instance, Congress would NEVER suggest amendments which would weaken the Bill of Rights. Why? Because they would lose their seats in the next election AND the States would NEVER ratify them. Why would our Congress critters risk their seats to get nothing?
Point 2: If our crazy Congress, which everyone could agree is out of control compared to the state legislatures, will not propose crazy amendments using the first method of proposing amendments, why would the delegates to the convention, who are selected by the state legislatures, propose those same crazy amendments? It just won’t happen. That is a plain political reality. It is even less likely to occur at the convention in that many states already have faithful delegate laws and, as a convention gets close to occurring, more states will pass them.
Point 3: Congress will generally be an enemy to this process and to any amendments which come out of the convention under the Convention of States resolution – because such amendments will remove power from them. They will want to slow down the amendment ratification process as much as possible. The state legislature ratification method is significantly slower than the convention method. Thus Congress is more likely to pick the state legislatures for ratification. Of course, such a statement does not GUARANTEE that is what Congress will select.
Point 4: Intrastate ratification conventions will somewhat precisely mimic the political makeup of the state legislatures – regardless of the issue at hand. The repeal of prohibition was accomplished through ratification conventions. In Tennessee, that intrastate ratification convention consisted of elected delegates from each county. Although, because of gerrymandering, the makeup of House seats is different from Counties, it is still the case that a convention of delegates from Counties will generally reflect the political makeup of the General Assembly. The results from an interstate convention are likely to be almost exactly the same as the results which could be obtained from the state legislatures
Eagle Forum E-mail:Even if that didn't happen, the requisite number of states did ratify the 16th amendment ( allows the Congress to levy an income tax) and 17th amendment (establishing the popular election of United States Senatorsby the people of the states). Many folks don't think either of these were good ideas.
COS Response: Again, if we only had a dime for each time we have answered this question. Yes, during the HEIGHT of the progressive era in the early 1900’s, the States made two very poor decisions. Neither of these amendments were good ideas. The first took away the representation of the states in Congress. The second allowed the Congress to begin confiscating an ever-increasing supply of taxes through the manipulation of the definition of “income”.
However, it is a false assumption to say that because it happened once means it will happen again. It simply would not. Neither amendment would pass today. Further, such a scenario assumes that the convention would propose either amendment. The topic of the resolution controls the convention and would prevent such ideas from even being proposed. The state legislatures will control their delegates and thus prevent such crazy amendments from being proposed at the convention in the first place.
Eagle Forum E-mail:I want to close by saying that I GET IT -- I UNDERSTAND that we are living in perilous times …
COS Response:Does Eagle Forum REALLY get it? Does Eagle Forum not realize that we are on the very precipice of both a financial disaster and a political disaster, either of which will trigger the other? Our Republic is in its death throws right now. Other medicines and treatments have been tried to no avail. The patient is on the operating table, but will the doctor take action? With Eagle Forum as the doctor, refusing to operate out of fear, the patient has no chance – the doctor might as well be on the golf course. No doctor wants to operate unless they have to. Our Republic is at that point. The available surgical procedure has been used over 30 times for similar conditions and is known to be safe. And if the doctor just stands and stares at the patient? It’s time to replace that doctor!
Does Eagle Forum offer another constitutional solution which is quick enough and broad enough to actually save our country? If Eagle Forum REALLY got it, they would realize that the Article V convention is the ONLY viable solution and if it does not work, our Republic is surely doomed and we might as well start prepping for very dark times indeed. The time is now – in fact the time was several decades ago! We MUST take QUICK action before it is too late.
Eagle Forum E-mail:and some kind of device or process that would offer the hope of reigning in an out of control congress is very attractive and looks like that last great hope. But I think that concerns are legitimate especially when this is a plan that is untried and untested and unproven. Even when I list all these concerns I know that supporters will respond that they have all be successfully addressed.
COS Response:Yes, the questions and concerns have ALL been addressed. Over and over and over. Even concerns not specifically listed in the Eagle Forum email. But Eagle Forum, like a few other groups, will accept nothing but 100% certainty in the process and a 100% predictable outcome. Thus they will refuse to take action – because of fear. Truly, we have nothing to lose. Our country will be lost anyway without the needed surgery. We need to take action!
Eagle Forum E-mail:Organizations OPPOSING an Article V Convention
COS Response: The original e-mail has a link to a document listing those STILL opposed to the Article V convention process. At a little over three pages long, it appears at first to be an impressive list (even if only a few names are recognizable). If she had printed the list from 10 years ago, it would have been many dozens of pages long. Why are so many of the people who were on that list 10 years ago no longer on that list? Why does that list get shorter and shorter every day? The answer is simple. The people still on that list, including the many leaders within Eagle Forum, are behind the times and the current research. As people catch up with the new research, they drop off that list and join the list of supporters.
Eagle Forum E-mail:Note: Posted <here> are some new analysis [sic] of the Convention of States written <by another group>. You might find these helpful.
COS Response: We are working on responding to that other group’s points – which are the same old points all of the “naysayer” Anti-Article-V groups share with each other. We will get to them as soon as we have time.
Eagle Forum E-mail:
STATUS: SJR 67 was voted out of the State Government Committee 5-4 and will be in Calendar and Rules committee on Tuesday morning at 8:30am.
ACTION: I encourage you to contact the members of that committee to express your concerns about this proposal.
COS Response:Actually, the vote was 5 to 3. It would have been 7 to 3 if two members of the committee had not been out for illnesses. Yes, please do contact the members of the Calendar and Rules Committee and ask them to vote “YES” on SJR0067.