On Monday, the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee approved a resolution calling for a “Convention of States” to amend the U.S. Constitution to check congressional power and federal spending.
Senators Cris Dush (R-Wellsboro) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) authored the measure, which all of the committee’s seven Republicans voted to support and all of the panel’s four Democrats opposed.
Amendments the constitutional convention could consider would be limited under the resolution to new restraints on federal spending, curbs on federal powers, and term limits for federal lawmakers. The two sponsors reasoned that their legislation is necessary because the federal government has become “bloated and oversized.” Last year, the federal government spent $6.82 trillion, a figure amounting to 30 percent of the total gross domestic product.
“I am sure many of us frequently hear constituents expressing a desire for someone to ‘do something about that mess in Washington,’” Sen. Dush wrote in a memorandum on the legislation. “This resolution reflects our willingness as state legislators to exercise our proper role in protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States by using the constitutional ‘check’ that was provided to us by our Founding Fathers to exercise control over a runaway federal government.”
Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides for summoning such an assembly. Under that provision, thirty-four states must approve basically identical applications for a convention. So far, thirteen states, all in the South and the West, have adopted resolutions for a convention concerning the three subjects covered by Dush and Phillips-Hill’s measure.
After the meeting goes forward, any proposed amendments passed therein would have to be ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures (i.e., 38 of them) to be enacted.
State Government Committee Minority Chair Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) spoke against the resolution, fearing it could end up compromising important constitutional rights.
“I have great reservations about opening up a constitutional convention and all of the challenges that could come out of that, potentially eroding many of our fundamental rights,” he said.
The legislation awaits consideration by the full Senate. If approved by the chamber, it would be referred to the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee for review and potential further adjustment.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Cris Dush” by Senator Cris Dush. Photo “Kristin Phillips-Hill” by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill. Background Photo “United States Capitol” by David Maiolo. CC BY-SA 3.0.