By Kevin Lundberg, Yvette Herrell, Stuart MacPhail / Heartland Institute
With a focus on balancing the monumental debt plaguing the United States, the states push for an amendment aimed at restoring federal fiscal restraint.
Phoenix Convention Was an Enormous Success –
The September 12 – 15 Phoenix Convention was called by the Arizona State Legislature (HCR2022) for the express purpose of planning for a BBA-focused Article V convention of states and to draft suggested rules for such a convention.
This historic convention was the first convention of states called by a state legislature to which all states were invited since 1861. The 1861 Peace Conference, called by the state of Virginia and chaired by former President John Tyler, was an attempt to head off the civil war. The Phoenix Convention was called as a step toward an Article V convention that will propose a Constitutional amendment aimed at restoring federal fiscal restraint. It took place just days after America’s national debt surpassed $20 trillion.
All states were invited to send delegates. Nineteen states sent a total of 72 formal delegates to Phoenix. Another four states had official observers present. Some 25 additional observers were also present.
On the first day of the convention the delegates unanimously elected Arizona State Rep. Kelly Townsend as Convention President. Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory was elected Vice President, and Georgia attorney David Guldenschuh was elected Convention Secretary. The Arizona legislature made some 50 of its staff members available to assist with the convention.
A brief video about the history of conventions of states was shown. It can be viewed HERE.
Welcoming presentations were offered by Arizona Speaker of the House J. D. Menard and by Senator Steve Montenegro representing the Arizona Senate. Opening remarks were presented by former Oklahoma State Rep. Gary Banz (who was the chief sponsor of that state’s successful resolution calling for a BBA-focused Article V convention). His speech was followed by a standing ovation. The speech can be watched HERE (beginning at 22:05… through 46:36).
Arizona State Senator Nancy Barto presented a report from the Arizona legislators who had been appointed to plan the Phoenix Convention. It included recommendations on the rules under which the Phoenix Convention would operate, recommendations of temporary chairs for the three recommended committees (Rules, Planning, Credentials), and recommendations for Clerk, Sergeant of Arms and Parliamentarian for the Phoenix Convention. The report and recommendations were unanimously approved and accepted by the delegates.
Prior to the Phoenix Convention legislators from several states had worked together to draft a basic set of suggested rules for a future BBA-focused Article V convention. Their work became known as Resolution 1 for the Phoenix Convention.
Three Committees Formed:
The convention broke into the three committees with each represented state having at least one delegate serving on the two main committees. The committees each elected a chairman.
Gary Banz chaired the Rules Committee. Tennessee immediately moved to adopt Resolution 1 (the initial draft of the proposed rules for an Article V Convention). The motion was unanimously adopted.
The Rules Committee met all day Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday as it entertained a large variety of proposed amendments to Resolution 1. There was often vigorous, but respectful, debate as each state’s spokesperson provided rationale for their suggested amendments. By Friday afternoon delegates comprising the Rules Committee voted unanimously to approve the modified Resolution 1 (rules package).
At the final session of the convention the amended Resolution 1 was unanimously approved by the convention as a whole. That rules package can be reviewed HERE.
Arizona State Rep. Bob Thorpe served as chair of the Planning Committee. That committee divided its work into two sub-committees (one to suggest how states should select delegates to a future Article V convention, and one to deal with time, place and logistics of holding a convention).
Reports from the two sub-committees were presented to the convention as a whole. Again, amendments were offered from the floor, entertained, and changes were accommodated before they were unanimously approved by the convention as a whole. Those reports can be read HERE.
The Credentials Committee was chaired by Michigan delegate Tom Llewellyn who kept track of delegate attendance at each session. Attendence records can be viewed HERE.
On the opening night of the Phoenix Convention the BBA Task Force hosted a dinner for convention delegates. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was the keynote speaker.
The convention was closed with a presentation by Georgia delegate David Guldenschuh. He pointed out that the convention’s closing day (9/15) was the 230th birthday of the writing and unanimous adoption of Article V of the new US Constitution, just 2 days before the new Constitution was completed and sent to the states for ratification. His speech can be viewed HERE.
Not one time did the Phoenix Convention “runaway” or get off the topics assigned in the original call by the Arizona legislature. The entire convention was orderly. It provided an excellent model for a future Article V convention.
The delegates demonstrated orderly decorum and united behind the principles of one vote per state, and the limiting of discussions to one subject at a future BBA-focused Article V convention.
The Phoenix Convention Drew Considerable Media Coverage –
Following is a sample of the press coverage given to the Phoenix Convention (click on underlined copy to read the stories):
The Conservative Review carried a story under the headline Article V convention planning underway in Arizona.
The Arizona Republic carried a story announcing 22 states participate in ‘historic’ gathering.
Townhall.com published a review of conventions of states written by Prof. Rob Natelson under the headline Convention of States: How the States Meet to Bypass Congress.
Idaho television station KTVB did a special story on the 10 delegates its legislature sent to the Phoenix Convention and posted the story on its web site headlined Idaho lawmakers take part in historic gathering.
Surprisingly, even SFGate.com (San Francisco) carried a story headlined Idaho sends 10 delegates to balanced budget convention.
Even the Washington (Indiana) Times-Herald carried a piece on the convention.
After the convention concluded ABC News carried a report headlined GOP lawmakers finish plan for balanced budget convention.
The Hill also carried a follow-up story headlined GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention.
AZCentral (a part of the USA Today network) published a post-convention report headlined Phoenix constitutional convention gives ‘rebirth to a new nation,’ planners say.
The American Legislative Exchange Council published a report on the convention headlined History Was Made in Phoenix This Month.
The Rome (Georgia) News-Tribune carried a post-convention report by Georgia Senator Chuck Hufstetler headlined Using a ‘forgotten power’: Convention of states planning ahead to force congress to balance the budget.
The Conservative Daily Post reported 22 States Make BOLD Pact As State Leaders Gather In Arizona For A Bold Constitutional Change.
The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World reported State lawmakers take part in planning for possible constitutional convention.
Phoenix Correspondence Commission Created –
One of the big developments at the Phoenix Convention was creation of the Phoenix Correspondence Commission (PCC). Among other decisions, delegates unanimously agreed to establish the PCC to facilitate communication between the states, Congress, and the public on Article V and a proposed balanced budget amendment.
PCC is fashioned after the “committees of correspondence” that were common during the colonial era. Initially the new Commission will consist of one member of each state delegation that attended the Phoenix Convention. Arizona State Rep. Anthony Kern will serve as the PCC temporary chairman.
The new PCC is charged with tracking Article V resolutions adopted by the states calling for a BBA Article V convention, encouraging at least seven more states to adopt such resolutions, and encouraging all state legislatures to adopt legislation appointing and instructing delegates to the anticipated first Article V convention.
The consensus of the Phoenix Convention was that members of the new PCC are now the leaders of the Article V movement. They appeared to welcome the responsibility.
The Economist Publishes Major Piece on Article V –
Reporters from the London-based The Economist magazine were in Phoenix during the recent Phoenix Convention. Surprisingly this primarily-financial foreign publication has taken more serious interest in Article V than most major US media.
On September 30 Economist.com published an extensive piece on the entire Article V movement in the US. While the second paragraph was a bit jumbled (initially implying that founding Father George Mason did not like the two-option approach to Constitutional amendment… the approach he actually proposed and which was unanimously adopted), the detailed article is a mostly accurate overview of Article V.
Toward the end of the article it unfortunately repeats the misinformation about the 1787 Philadelphia convention… suggesting that the Constitutional framers were working under the authority of the original Articles of Confederation, and (without authority) changed the requirements for ratification. Using that example the story says, “Delegates could simply declare a new, lower threshold for ratification.”
As most serious Constitutional scholars know, the framers were not working under the Articles of Confederation, but were complying with the direction of the state legislatures which called the Philadelphia convention… producing a new governing document for a totally new national government.
Within the context of this misrepresentation of the origins of America’s 1787 Constitution, the Economist quoted Larry Greenley of the John Birch Society, saying of an Article V convention, “This is a convention that creates constitutions. It’s a level above state legislatures, and can’t be limited. We really believe that any Article V convention would have the ability to change the ratification process.”
Of course there is no provision in Article V for re-writing or “creating” a new Constitution… only to propose amendments. Period. Read the Economist article HERE.
A Debt Ceiling With No Limit? –
Friday September 8, 2017 America’s federal debt formally surpassed $20 trillion. On that one day alone the debt grew by $317,645,000,000, following a spending and debt-limit deal agreed to by President Trump and large “Yes” votes by both Houses of Congress… to fund the government through December 8. The above figures are from the Treasury Department’s “Debt to the Penny” page.
The “deal” involved disaster recovery aid for the victims of recent hurricanes… but no longer pretends to have a debt ceiling cap.
An article on Hotair.com by Ed Morrissey noted that “President Trump on Thursday signaled openness to a proposal to effectively eliminate the federal limit on government borrowing….” Morrissey reported that “Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D–N.Y.) reached what one senior White House official called a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ to develop a plan that would no longer require Congress to routinely raise the limit on government borrowing.”
Morrissey offered the opinion that “The best way to deal with the debt ceiling is with a balanced-budget amendment. If Congress won’t produce one — and they won’t — then the states need to accelerate the Article V convention to impose it on them.” Read his article HERE.
Just a few days before “the deal” was struck, FreedomWorks (a Tea Party-affiliated activist group) made it clear that Congress and the White House that the people it represents will not support a “clean” debt limit increase — that is, one without any spending cuts or policy riders or some type of regulatory reform attached to any bill that raises the debt ceiling. No spending cuts, riders or reforms were attached to the adopted bill… and it appears to have no spending ceiling. Read the Politico report on FreedomWorks’ positions HERE.
“Of all the absurd Washington pantomimes none has been as reliably entertaining and maddening as the annual debates to raise the debt ceiling,”said Peter D. Schiff of Euro Pacific Capitol in a piece published by FX.com after the debt ceiling “deal” was announced.
Schiff is best known for his predictions of the 2008 financial crisis. FX.com is described as a leading source for reliable (financial) news and real time foreign exchange analysis.
Schiff’s September 8 article says, “(T)his week the news dropped that President Trump had made a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to permanently scrap the ‘debt ceiling’ so that government borrowing can occur perpetually without the need to air the nation’s fiscal dirty laundry. Given how much the national debt has exploded in recent decades, and how reluctant Congress has been to address the problem, it should be no surprise that the proposal has finally been made.”
Talking about the often-rising debt ceiling, Schiff says, “If we eliminate the only tool, the problem will never be fixed. If the debt ceiling were to be cut out like an unneeded appendix, we should expect that America’s foray into debt creation, which has already been fantastical, to journey even farther into the looking glass.”
He suggests that “This could be the worst possible choice for the U.S. economy, and investors should be prepared. It could produce a dollar and sovereign debt crisis that will dwarf the financial crisis of 2008 with respect to its impact on the American economy. It could make hurricane Irma look like a sun shower.” Read Schiff’s article HERE.
Hillary Clinton Apparently Doesn’t Understand Article V –
In a recent podcast interview with Vox.com, Hillary Clinton talked about the Convention of States Project. She reportedly said, “They want radical, pull-‘em-up-by-the-roots change, they want to have a constitutional convention to rewrite our Constitution to make it friendlier to business, to inject religious and ideological elements. So talk about radical change—they are pursuing it, they are funding it, and they are electing people who are either true believers or willing vehicles for it.”
Mark Meckler, head of the COS Project wrote an op-ed for The Hill, tearing apart Clinton’s criticisms piece-by-piece. Meckler’s op-ed can be read HERE.
Another web blog, LegalInsurrection.com also posted a piece on Clinton’s failure to understand Article V. On September 27 it published a piece entitled Hillary Doesn’t Understand What a Convention of States Actually Is. Read it HERE.
Congressional Dysfunction Spurs Interest in Term Limits –
Even with one party controlling both Houses of Congress, it does not seem capable of accomplishing much. That dysfunction is increasing the interest in using Article V to enshrine Congressional term limits in the Constitution.
During the past month a combined meeting of two Georgia Tea Party groups heard a presentation from James Alvarado, state director for US Term Limits. “We did a poll last year, and 82 percent of [Georgians] —that’s Republicans, Democrats and Independents — all agree on one thing: term limits in Congress,” he said.
Alvarado encouraged attendees to support Georgia State Resolution 195 to call for an Article V convention for term limits. The resolution was introduced in February but has not been approved by the state legislature.
During September Ken Clark, Regional Director for the Convention of States Project was interviewed on the Daily Ledger program of AcuNewsDaily where the host talked about federalism and Article V with a focus on federal term limits The very good interview can be viewed HERE.
Meanwhile an Idaho resident wrote a letter to the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press that was published under the heading Term Them Out. The writer said “I would like to see an article 5 convention of states to force a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on ALL federal House and Senate members IF it could be limited to that issue ONLY.” Read the letter HERE.
This past month the ebook version of Term Limits by Vince Flynn was released. It claims to be a New York Times best seller book. Learn about it HERE.
Who Said It?
“We must not let the growing momentum to propose crucial amendments to the Constitution be obstructed by territorial differences or the pretense that Article V is a binary choice. Rather, let’s recognize the synergies between the various efforts lest they all be ended before they have really begun.”
Arizona House Speaker J. D. Mesnard
This Newsletter is produced by Colorado State Senator Kevin Lundberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and New Mexico State Representative Yvette Herrell (email@example.com) Newsletter Editor – Stuart MacPhail (CitizenAmend@aol.com)
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Southern Arizona News-Examiner