Why TN Should Rescind Its Calls for a Federal Con-Con
We have not had a Constitutional Convention since 1787. That Convention was called to make small changes in the Articles of Confederation. As a point of fact, several states first passed resolutions requiring their delegates DISCUSS amendments to the Articles ONLY, forbidding even discussion of foundational changes. However, following the delegates' first agreement that their meetings be in secret, their second act was to agree to debate those state restrictions and to declare the Articles of Confederation NULL AND VOID! They also changed the ratification process, reducing the required states' approval from 100% to 75%. There is no reason to believe a contemporary Con Con wouldn't further "modify" Article V restrictions to suit its purpose.
Back in the 1970s and 80s many state legislatures passed various calls for a Federal Constitutional Convention without giving serious thought as to what would happened if the requisite number of 34 was reached.
State legislators are asked to accept the assurances of pro-convention supporters based on a ‘guarantee that nothing can or will go wrong if a convention is called. That type of assurance and artificial guarantee just isn’t good enough for Tennesseans and the American people.
Even though authority for an Article V convention exists in the Constitution, we are not obliged to use it – Article I allows war to be declared, but the United States does not declare war on a routine basis.
Beyond mentioning the alternate convention method, Article V is absolutely SILENT on procedures and guidelines for the convening and functioning of a convention.
A majority of legal scholars, and two former U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Warren Burger and Arthur J. Goldberg, have stated there is no assurance that an Article V convention can be limited to a particular amendment once it is convened. Any claim that Congress could, by statute, limit a convention’s agenda is pure speculation. More over, once convened a convention might reject any or all Congressional restrictions on its activity. Congress, therefore, may not be any more effective in restricting the agenda of a modern-day convention than was the Continental Congress in 1787 when its directives to the original constitutional convention were ignored.
Convention advocates offer the state ratification process (via the legislature) as a ‘safe harbor’ mechanism, and guarantees the rejection of any constitutional mischief by a runaway convention. They IGNORE the fact that the 1787 convention circumvented state legislatures by sending the Constitution to ratifying conventions, packed with delegates sympathetic to the new federal plan.
State legislators have been told that, despite the adoption of these petitions, a convention will never be held – that the ‘THREAT’ of a convention is merely a method of pressuring Congress to adopt whatever the ‘favored’ amendment is. If the ‘magic number’ of 34 calls is ever reached, the process will be triggered, like it or not. The ‘THREAT’ will turn into a nightmare.
As I understand it twelve states have rescinded their resolutions calling for a Con Con:
- Alabama (1988)
- Florida (1988)
- Louisiana (1990)
- Idaho (1999)
- Utah (2001)
- North Dakota (2001)
- Arizona (2003)
- Virginia (2004)
- South Carolina (2004)
- Georgia (2004)
- Wyoming — HEJR0003 (2009)
- Oklahoma — SJR 11 (2009)
Sen. Scott Rupp introduced a concurrent resolution (SCR 10) to rescind Missouri's 1983 call for a constitutional convention.
In the 1970s, Tennessee issued multiple calls for a Federal Constitutional Convention. By passing HJR30, Tennessee would join 12 other states in rescinding these calls.
In April 1990, Tennessee Attorney General Charles Burson opined [OP No. 90-47] “…it is the opinion of this office that such a rescission would probably be valid.” He also stated that “it is unclear whether a constitutional convention may be limited...” and went to include a quote from Walter Dellinger indicating that Article V does not provide for a ‘limited’ convention.
Many national organizations from all across the political spectrum oppose calling a Constitution Convention. These include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Eagle Forum, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Gun Owners of America, National Rifle Association, The Conservative Caucus, John Birch Society, General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, AFL-CIO, National Education Association, American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, and American Association of Retired Persons. Our great Constitution is for all Americans, regardless of political opinion.
"Resolved, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in San Antonio, Texas, August 25, 26, 27, 1987, That it states its opposition to efforts to convene a Constitutional Convention for any purpose and specifically opposes the rewriting of the United States Constitution."
"Resolved, by the 85th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, that we oppose any attempt to call a Constitutional Convention, as this would give our enemies from within and without the opportunity to destroy our Nation." Resolution No. 449, Adopted by the 85th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States held in Chicago, Illinois, August 17-24, 1984.
"Resolved, That members of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution oppose efforts to rewrite the Constitution by Constitutional Convention." Adopted by the DAR Continental Congress, April 1986, Washington, D.C.
"Resolved, By the eligible voting members at the 1992 Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association of America held in Salt Lake City on the 25th of April, 1992, that we oppose any attempt to call for a Constitutional Convention for any purpose whatsoever because it cannot be limited to a single issue and that our right to keep and bear arms can be seriously eroded."