It’s been more than 230 years since America’s last constitutional convention, but there is growing confidence in some conservative circles that the next one is right around the corner – and could spell disaster for entitlement programs like medicare and social security, as well court decisions like Roe v Wade.
“I think we’re three or four years away,” said the former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn on Friday, speaking at the annual convention for American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) – a powerful rightwing organization that links corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers from across the country.
Coburn, a veteran Republican lawmaker, now works as a senior adviser for the advocacy group Convention of States, which seeks to use a little known clause in article V of the US constitution to call a constitutional convention for new amendments to dramatically restrict the power of the federal government.
Coburn, who retired from the Senate in 2010, said that the American republic is “failing”, and that such a convention is the “only answer” to the problems the country faces today.
“We’re in a battle for the future of our country,” Coburn told the assembly of mostly conservative state lawmakers meeting in New Orleans. “We’re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country like western Europe, or we’re going to be free. As far as me and my family and my guns, I’m going to be free.”
Convention of States, with Alec’s support, is one of three prominent conservative groups pushing for a new constitutional convention. Under article V, if two-thirds of state legislatures so choose, they can force congress to convene such a meeting. On the agenda for Convention of States: an amendment to require a balanced budget, term limits for congress, repealing the federal income tax and giving states the power to veto any federal law, supreme court decision or executive order with a three-fifths vote from the states.
“The only chance we have to restore this country, that is peaceful, is this convention,” said Jim Moyer, a Convention of States supporter and attendee at the Alec annual meeting.
It’s not as far fetched as it sounds. A coalition seeking just the balanced budget amendment currently has 28 out of the required 34 state legislatures on board, with active bills calling for a convention. Since Trump’s election, Arizona and Wyoming have both passed bills to join in the call while Maryland, Nevada and New Mexico have repealed versions they…