Arizona GOP legislators are pushing several bills to add a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution using an Article V (“Article 5”) convention[1]. What is an Article V convention, and why is it risky?

Article V of the US Constitution describes two methods for adding amendments[2].

In the first method an amendment is proposed in Congress, and must be approved by both houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority. It then has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states’ legislatures (38 states) or conventions in three-quarters of the states. This is the way all amendments have been created since the Constitution was ratified in 1788.

The second method is the “Article V convention”. It starts with two-thirds of the states’ legislatures (34 states) petitioning Congress for a constitutional convention. A convention is held and three-quarters of the state legislatures (38 states) or conventions in three-quarters of the states have to ratify the amendments.

Notice the difference. In the first method, the amendments are proposed first. They are debated in Congress and people have input through their representatives. The amendments are finite and specific.

In the second method, there is no limit to what can be changed. Even though a balanced budget amendment is the original intent, there is no language in Article V that will limit the scope of a convention to the original intent. Anything can be amended. (One exception is that states have to maintain “equal suffrage in the Senate”.)

Currently twenty-eight states have passed a resolution calling for the convention[3]. Only six more are needed, and Arizona is likely to reduce that number to five. The likelihood of an Article V convention is increasing.

Even if a convention is called, won’t it be difficult to get three-quarters of the state legislatures to ratify extreme amendments? Maybe not. With brilliant gerrymandering[4], the GOP now has control of thirty-two state legislatures with three more being split[5,6]. The republicans are close to controlling the thirty-eight states needed to ratify. These thirty-eight states will likely ratify the results of an Article V convention, especially when the amendments are disguised as patriotism, national security, voting integrity, states’ rights, or religious freedom.

Still think it’s a long shot? A few years ago we thought it highly unlikely that a certain “bloviating ignoramus”[7] would get elected president. Think again.

Contributed by Craig Falasco, March 14, 2017

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[1] Arizona Legislature bills calling for an Article V convention: HCR2013, HB2226, HCR2022, and HB2449.  HB2449 is an attempt to limit the convention to its original intent. http://www.azleg.gov/bills/

[2] National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript#page-header

[3] “Corporate America Is Just 6 States Short of a Constitutional Convention“, In These Times, Rachel K. Dooley, March 14, 2016. http://inthesetimes.com/article/18940/alec-balanced-budget-corporate-constitutional-convention

[4] “The power that gerrymandering has brought to Republicans”, The Washington Post,  June 17, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.ccf9070e6870

[5] “Political party control of United States state legislatures and governors”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_control_of_United_States_state_legislatures_and_governors

[6] “State Partisan Composition”, National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/partisan-composition.aspx#2017

[7] “George Will Calls Donald Trump a “Bloviating Ignoramus””, Jake Tapper, May 27, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/george-will-calls-donald-trump-a-bloviating-ignoramus-on-this-week/

Note: For an opposing view, read this: “Debunking The Myths Surrounding An Article V Convention To Propose Constitutional Amendments”, Tom Linsay, February 23, 2016.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomlindsay/2016/02/23/debunking-the-myths-surrounding-an-article-v-convention-to-propose-constitutional-amendments/#1b5222b6384d