Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, fresh off a stint heading the conservative Heritage Foundation, is joining an effort to force an Article V convention to propose constitutional amendments to balance the budget and address congressional term limits.
DeMint is one of a growing number of former Tea Party firebrands saying states could force small government change in Washington that is too easily killed by the establishment on Capitol Hill.
“I tried to rein in Washington from inside the House and Senate, then by starting the Senate Conservatives Fund to elect good conservatives, and finally as President of the Heritage Foundation, creating and promoting good, conservative policy. But once I realized that Washington will never willingly return decision-making power back to the American people and the states, I began to search for another way to restrain the federal government,” DeMint said in a statement.
He added: “I am excited to get outside the beltway and work with the grassroots of the Convention of States Project to continue the fight I started almost two decades ago.”
The Convention of the States project currently has active members in all 50 states, including 32 where legislators are actively considering resolutions to force a convention. Lawmakers in Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Missouri and Texas have already passed legislation to initiate a convention. Efforts to organize a convention have also been endorsed by a number of influential conservatives.
Another major supporter of a convention to introduce a balanced budget amendment and weaken federal power is former Sen. Tom Coburn.
“I left Washington because I didn’t see we could fix it there,” Coburn said recently. “And our founders gave us this opportunity for state legislatures to re-exert their authority to restore the Constitution to its original intent.”
Still, a convention isn’t universally supported by American conservatives.
One of the biggest conservative critics of the plan is the John Birch Society, which worries that a constitutional convention would be hijacked by the political establishment to remove American freedoms. Instead, JBS members contend that forcing the federal government to follow the Constitution as it is written would vastly reduce government power without the potential danger to American liberties.
Other critics argue that the primary reasoning behind current calls for a convention, a balanced budget amendment, would cripple the nation in times of economic trouble by hamstringing Congress’s power to re-allocate government funding as needed. In the even of an economic downturn, they contend lawmakers constrained by a balanced budget law would either be forced to raise taxes or massively of slash entitlements.
Convention of the States supporters disagree that a convention would be susceptible to the whims of special interests in part because of the specificity of the petition states would use to organize the convention.
From the group’s website:
The subject matter of the Convention is settled by the States. There have been over 400 applications for a Convention of States in the history of the Republic. We have never had a Convention because we have never had two-thirds of the States agree on the subject matter. State legislatures control the subject matter. Just as the calling of the Convention is subject to the subject matter limitation, all stages of the Article V process are likewise prohibited from going outside of this limitation.
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