An Article V Convention

by Sal on March 24, 2010

in Law,Politics

Article V of the United States Constitution discusses the concept of amending the Constitution.  Most people are familiar with the traditional way of amending the Constitution – 2/3 of each house of Congress proposes amendments, which then have to be ratified by the state legislatures or by conventions in 3/4 of the states.  But there is another way to amend the Constitution, and it has gotten increased attention in recent days:

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.

The states can draft a call for a Constitutional convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution, which then have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.  Whether or not this is a good idea is debatable.  For instance, a Constitutional convention could propose amendments that radically alter our Constitution in a direction ordered towards liberalism.  A convention could also propose a whole new Constitution, and create a rather loose means for adapting it (much as the convention that was called to draft our current Constitution was only supposed to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which under that document required unanimous approval of the states).

So there is risk involved.  Yet with the current political climate, with socialism on the rise, our health care system haven been taken over by the government, the student loan industry being on the docket for the next takeover, and the federal government ignoring the principles of federalism and of limited government enshrined in the Constitution, calls for an Article V convention are getting louder, even reaching the halls of Congress:

The other side of this is that the threat of a convention may in fact prompt Congress to take action and dial things back a bit.  There is precedent for this.  At the time of the drafting of the 17th amendment, which provided for direct election of Senators, the U.S. Senate was (naturally) against proposing this amendment, so it defeated it year after year.  In 1910, 31 states drafted a call for a convention, one short of what was needed at the time to trigger the Article V provision.  Congress woke up, and under fear of what an Article V convention could propose, ended up passing the 17th amendment.

It’s a risky proposition, but it may be the only tool we have left to stop the creeping liberalism of the United States Congress.  Even if we do get back the houses of Congress, who is to say that the Republicans will be able to repeal ObamaCare and the other inroads that the Democrats make towards Socialism?  Sure, they will likely be able to dial things back quite a bit, but a straight-out repeal is difficult.

So I ask:  is an Article V convention worth the risk?  Should it be a tool that we consider, especially given the fact that more than 50% of the states are challenging ObamaCare in court?  Or are we better off fighting through elections, hoping to get a more Conservative majority in the GOP and in congress to start dialing back the encroachment of big government into our lives?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Daily Dose of What I am reading « Budos World
March 24, 2010 at 8:07 am
Convention to amend the Constitution April 9th « Summerville 9.12 Group
March 25, 2010 at 10:32 pm

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan March 24, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I think an Article V convention (or at least the mere threat of one) would be a wonderful tool for reengaging the American people, getting them to think their votes and voices matter, and scaring the heck out of both parties in Congress!

Yes, we could get a populist 17th Amendment out of it, but on par we’d be better for it, and the fear of a modern day James Madison or Alexander Hamilton scheming to use the opportunity replace the Constitution is misplaced. It was tough in 1787 with only 13 states — 50 would be much harder to form the kind of consensus needed to change our form of government.


Denver March 24, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Our form of Government changed just the other day. We are officially no longer a Constitutional Republic. We have become a life-sucking, democracy.

Free men are not equal. Equal men are never Free.


Bill Walker March 26, 2010 at 12:07 am

For reference. All 50 states have already submitted over 700 applications for a convention call, some 20 times the number required. The applications can be read at


Bill Walker March 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

A point of clarification. A convention cannot write a new constitution. The plain language of Article V makes it clear a convention can only propose amendments as part of this constitution.


Josh Ferguson April 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm

The natural defense for a runaway Article V Convention is that 3/4 of the states would still need to ratify any amendment passed.

I think this would be done on the subject of an balanced budget amendment. This came within 2 states in the 1980′s.

Amendment 21 (repeal of prohibition) also came within 1 request and Congress preemptively passed it as well.

In response to Bill Walker, there’s valid argument saying that it can’t just be a cumulative request over the years which is where the 700 number comes from. If 34 states requested an Article V Convention on the subject of a Balanced Budget, Congress would have no choice but to grant it.

See this post for 2 ways to take our government back:


Charles Hooper April 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Josh, if what you say is the case, then how would you explain the ratification of the 27th Amendment? Ratified after nearly two centuries from being proposed.

I am the author of “The Next American Revolution: How to Demand Congressional Reform Now,” a book that expouses a revolutionary movement to force a convention for the sole purpose of reforming Congress. The best advice I can offer is to read my book and visit That’s where you’re going to find true, expert information on the Article V convention clause. Take your arguments there and learn like I did.


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