Tea-Party affiliated group seeks constitutional change

John Rossomando Contributor
Font Size:

A Tea Party activist is working to get state backing for a constitutional convention to pass a constitutional amendment that would give two-thirds of the states the ability to repeal congressional acts, such as the new health care law.

“It restores a lot of the sovereignty and a lot of the power that the states have lost,” said Marianne Moran, executive director of RepealAmendment.org and *former executive director of Tea Party In Action.

The Tenth Amendment has become useless because of Supreme Court decisions that have expanded federal power and because of the Seventeenth Amendment that stripped state legislatures of their right to name U.S. senators, Moran said.

“This doesn’t undo some of those bad Supreme Court cases and doesn’t resolve some of the problems of the Seventeenth Amendment, but it does restore some of the balance of power that was originally intended  ̶  and the mechanism by which we can control some of the out of control spending and get our debt under control,” she said.

Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett initially devised the idea in a 2009 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, which drew the attention of numerous Tea Party activists.

Several Tea Party groups back the amendment, Moran said.

Getting the backing of 34 states, the magic number needed under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call a constitutional convention, could be an uphill climb, but Moran is undaunted.

Virginia will be the first state to vote on issuing a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to discuss what Moran calls the “Repeal Amendment” when its House of Delegates convenes in January.

“The founding fathers who put together our Constitution … were very, very concerned about the power a large federal government, which … was the driving reason behind the first 10 amendments; a lot of what they feared has come to pass,” Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell told The Daily Caller. “I think it is vitally important that we restore some of that balance, which has been taken away.”

Howell hopes to get bipartisan support for the resolution when he brings it up for a vote next year, and he has been working with state legislators in other states to convince them to back similar resolutions.

“It’s an issue that’s not a Democrat/Republican issue or a conservative/liberal issue,” Howell said. “I think most state legislators would be very interested in this…It returns to them some of that power that has been taken away.”

Moran has received overtures from other states in recent weeks since he published a Sept. 16 column in The Wall Street Journal in conjunction with Barnett about the proposed amendment.

“It would have to be a pretty egregious act by Congress to get two-thirds of the states to agree on anything,” Howell said. “But if that happened, I think this would be [a] tool I think they could have.”

The amendment would give the states the power to overturn federal laws even if they have the president’s signature.

“It takes 34 states to petition Congress and call for an Article 5 convention,” Howell said. “I think if Congress saw 30, 32 … states passing resolutions calling for the convention they would act  ̶  they’ve done that in the past…They did it with the Seventeenth Amendment and with other efforts.”
Before this current effort, the most recent push for a constitutional convention started in the 1970s with the push for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

A poll of Nevada residents found 49 percent supported the idea behind the amendment, Barnett said.

However, not all conservative state legislators and Tea Party activists have been quick to endorse this amendment or the call for a constitutional convention.

“This would upset the scheme of federalism that has worked for us over the past couple hundred of years,” Republican Pennsylvania state Rep. Curt Schroder told TheDC. “I’m not unsympathetic to many of their concerns, but I don’t think we should change the balance.”

Other conservatives, such as Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer, worry the convention’s scope could become too broad and get out of hand.

“It would be opening Pandora’s box and we do not need that. We have a perfectly strong and viable Constitution,” Kremer said. “We need to work with the perfectly good document upon which our country was founded.  We need to find and use other mechanisms to repeal or defund ObamaCare.”

She continued, “I personally cannot speak for everyone within this movement, but I think that most people within the Tea Party movement would agree on this and would not support a constitutional convention.”

Howell defends the idea, saying state could limit the convention’s scope to keep it from turning into a circus.

*Correction: The article originally stated that Moran was executive director of Tea Party in Action. She no longer serves in that capacity.