Bud­get hawks tar­get foes of con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion at state level

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

Con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists push­ing to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion to rein in fed­eral spend­ing are pre­par­ing to delve into state leg­isla­tive elec­tions across the coun­try, specif­i­cally tar­get­ing Repub­li­cans who are stand­ing in the way of a con­ven­tion of the states.

“Our at­ti­tude is if state leg­is­la­tors won’t stand against Wash­ing­ton, D.C., then they need to be re­placed by some­body who will,” Mark Meckler, pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance and a leader of the state con­ven­tion move­ment, told The Wash­ing­ton Times in an in­ter­view this week.

Mr. Meckler al­ready has one tar­get in mind: Vir­ginia State Sen. Richard H. Black, a Loudoun County Repub­li­can who helped de­rail an ef­fort in Rich­mond ear­lier this year to add Vir­ginia’s voice to the states seek­ing a con­ven­tion to rein in fed­eral spend­ing.

“My per­sonal opin­ion is, and the plan’s not in place, but my per­sonal opin­ion is — got to re­move him from of­fice,” Mr. Meckler said. “He’s ir­ra­tional on the is­sue, he’s un­rea­son­able, he’s out­ra­geous.”

Mr. Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots, is part of the grow­ing move­ment among con­ser­va­tives to have the states ex­er­cise their right un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Ar­ti­cle V to call a con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion to con­sider amend­ments. If two-thirds of the states’ leg­is­la­tures is­sue a call, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is com­pelled to or­ga­nize the con­ven­tion.

The ef­fort has raised plenty of ques­tions, in­clud­ing thorny legal is­sues over when enough states have is­sued a con­ven­tion call and whether a con­ven­tion can be limited to a sin­gle idea, such as a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment.

Mr. Black said he op­posed a con­ven­tion call be­cause he fears such a gath­er­ing, with­out a more de­fined process for se­lect­ing del­e­gates, could be hi­jacked by its lib­eral op­po­nents.

“The odds of win­ning the game are pretty good, but the con­se­quences of be­ing [wrong] are pro­found,” he said. “It is re­mark­able that peo­ple who claim to be so [ded­i­cated] to the Con­sti­tu­tion are will­ing to roll the dice and cre­ate a to­tally un­known form of gov­ern­ment and ba­si­cally do away with the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

He led op­po­si­tion this year to pass­ing a con­ven­tion call through Vir­ginia’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly, where sep­a­rate mea­sures call­ing for a con­ven­tion for the pur­poses of rein­ing in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and for a bal­anced bud­get ad­vanced to the floor of the state House and Se­nate.

But state Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, Hanover Repub­li­can, and Del­e­gate L. Scott Lingam­fel­ter, Prince Wil­liam Repub­li­can, ended up nix­ing their own bills, which were sup­ported by Mr. Meckler’s group, for lack of sup­port.

Other ap­pli­ca­tions call­ing for a con­ven­tion for the pur­poses of a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment also died.

Repub­li­cans have a siz­able ad­van­tage in the House, but hold only a 21-19 edge in the Se­nate, mean­ing Democrats can ef­fec­tively block a ma­jor­ity if one Repub­li­can de­fects.

Mr. Meckler said he con­sid­ered Mr. Black the ma­jor im­ped­i­ment in Vir­ginia, though an im­me­di­ate bid to oust the se­na­tor could be an up­hill climb. The Repub­li­can be­came his party’s nom­i­nee for the fall elec­tion af­ter no other can­di­dates filed be­fore a dead­line last month.

Oth­ers could be tar­geted as well, Mr. Meckler said.

A num­ber of con­ser­va­tive lead­ers have been push­ing for a con­ven­tion, with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess. Such con­ser­va­tive lu­mi­nar­ies as Mark Levin and Sean Han­nity have helped cat­a­pult the idea on the na­tional stage,

Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota passed ap­pli­ca­tions this year on a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment, and ad­vo­cates have tar­geted a hand­ful of other states.

It takes 34 states to is­sue a call, and by some counts Michi­gan met that thresh­old when it ap­proved a con­ven­tion call last year. Some schol­ars, though, say states that have re­scinded their ap­pli­ca­tions, which ap­plies to about a dozen of them, should not count.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans tried ear­lier this decade to add a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment through the more tra­di­tional route of hav­ing both cham­bers of Congress pass a res­o­lu­tion by a twothirds vote, but the mea­sure didn’t clear ei­ther cham­ber.

In the 1990s, such a pro­posal did clear the House and came within a sin­gle vote of clear­ing the Se­nate, but a Repub­li­can who pre­vi­ously sup­ported the amend­ment doomed it by vot­ing against it.

Mr. Meckler said he would judge progress based on the num­ber of states where a con­ven­tion call is in­tro­duced, which he said has been a good test for grass­roots or­ga­niz­ing.

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