“I am overwhelmed by how positive the response is,” Meckler, president and founder of Citizens for Self-Governance, told CNSNews.com. “It’s never been done before, but there is so much momentum.”
The group currently has organizers in 43 states. “People are signing up by the thousands all over the country,” Meckler said, adding that the idea has appeal across party and ideological lines.
Although the majority of supporters are currently Republicans or Independents, he added, “I’m very surprised how many people I meet who are not conservative Tea Party members who are heavily engaged in the Convention of the States.”
Meckler said his goal is to hold a constitutional convention by late 2016. The idea was spearheaded by prominent conservative talk show host Mark Levin in his book, The Liberty Amendments, and championed by conservative heavyweights Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
Meckler believes that the 2016 goal is achievable.
“It seems audacious, even impossible,” he acknowledged. “This is a paradigm breaker.” But once two dozen state applications are filed, which he expects to happen sometime next year, politicians in Washington “will start paying attention,” he predicted. “A lot of them will jump in front of the parade, and we’ll welcome them.”
The legislatures of three states – Alaska, Florida, and Georgia – have already filed applications, and “we expect 20 to 27 states will do the same during the 2015 session,” Meckler said. A total of 34 states is necessary to convene a Convention of the States. “Congress’ only role is administrative, determining the time and place,” he added.
In April, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirmed that “Congress is obliged to convene” a constitutional convention if 34 states file applications calling for one.
“The evidence of the founder’s actions at the 1787 Constitutional Convention suggests that they intended the Article V Convention as a ‘way around’ a Congress unwilling to consider an amendment or amendments that enjoyed broad support,” the CRS report stated.
“Whether current efforts to promote an Article V Convention enjoy sufficiently broad support to make serious progress toward their goal remains to be seen,” the CRS report stated, pointing out that “significant developments in this issue have occurred recently.”
“The legislatures of Ohio, in November 2013, and Michigan, in March 2014, applied to Congress for an Article V Convention to consider a balanced budget amendment; these are the first new state applications since 1982 and are also the 33rd and 34th applications for the balanced budget amendment convention,” according to the report.
“If all 32 previous related state applications are valid, it is arguable that the constitutional requirement for requests from two-thirds of the states has been met, and that Congress should consider calling a convention.” (See CRS Article 5 Convention.pdf)
The constitutional amendments proposed at the convention would be limited to specific subjects such as “fiscal restraint, limiting the power of the Supreme Court, and term limits,” Meckler said, so fears that delegates could vote to repeal key provisions of the Constitution or repeal the Bill of Rights are unfounded.
“You need 38 states to ratify any new amendment,” he pointed out. “That also means you only need 13 states to stop it. It’s a fail-safe mechanism. If the 13 states with very conservative populations can’t stop anything they want to stop, we’ve already lost the country,” he said. “I don’t believe that for a second.”
Meckler, who was also a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, noted that members of Congress do not have any incentive to pass legislation reining-in the federal government.
“The Tea Party thought it was important to elect the best people, constitutional conservatives, but that’s not enough,” he told CNSNews.com. “The system can’t return power to the people. We need a structural fix to do that. Multiple constitutional scholars and major figures across the conservative spectrum say that this is the only way to save the country."
On September 11, a group of constitutional experts signed the Jefferson Statement, which said that “the Convention of States mechanism is safe, and it is the only constitutionally effective means available to do what is so essential for our nation—restoring robust federalism with genuine checks on the power of the federal government.”
“The Founders knew that despite all the protections in the Constitution, the federal government could become tyrannical. They didn’t insert this provision into the first part of Article V until the last two weeks of the original Constitutional Convention, when George Mason stood up and asked them, ‘Are we really so foolish to believe that the federal government will not abuse its power’?” Meckler explained.
“There was no debate. The measure advanced unanimously. And in Federalist 85 it says when the government becomes tyrannical, it’s time to use Article V. We’re there now,” Meckler said.
“We not talking about drafting a constitution from scratch,” he pointed out. The COS would take up single-subject amendments such as a balanced budget or term limits for all federal officials, including Supreme Court justices, which “consistent polling has shown to be supported by a large majority of the American people, but which federal officials would never impose on themselves.
“What will pass will be very mainstream, very common sense,” he said. “Probably the most radical possibility is doing away with the 16th Amendment’s direct federal income tax.” Since most Americans distrust the Internal Revenue Service, it’s possible that the states could pass an amendment allowing them to collect the tax and remit it to the federal government.
“This would be a radical shift in the power balance” between the federal and state governments, Meckler said, predicting “a lot more variety” as states assumed a larger role in governance. “And if you don’t like where you’re at, you can vote with your feet,” he said.
But even if a COS successfully reins-in the federal government, “there would still be drift over time,” Meckler added. “So going forward, we would still have to use Article V from time to time.”