Constitutional Amendment proposal to streamline legislative repeals to hit Congress soon

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Conservatives are planning to propose an amendment to the Constitution at some time in the next few weeks aimed at allowing states to repeal legislation without the approval of Washington.

The proposal, dubbed the “Repeal Amendment,” if approved and ratified, would be only the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution in more than 220 years, out of only 33 amendments approved by Congress for ratification. More than 10,000 amendments have been proposed to Congress since the Constitution itself was ratified, but barely any actually hit the floor for a vote.

The Repeal Amendment calls for allowing states to band together to repeal, or overturn, federal legislation. As it is written now, if approved and ratified, two-thirds of states’ legislatures would need to vote in favor of a repeal.

The proposed amendment reads: “Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.”

According to The Repeal Amendment, a nonprofit pushing the idea forward, those in favor of the Constitutional change at the federal level include House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, while many more state-level government officials are on board.

Cantor says he’s behind it because it will limit the power of the federal government.

“It’s time to return America to the common sense conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual responsibility. The Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around,” Cantor said in a statement. “In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction.”

Marianne Moran, a spokesperson for The Repeal Amendment, told The Daily Caller she expects the amendment to make it through and get approved in the 112th Congress.

Even so, Bishop said he plans to introduce the proposed constitutional amendment during the lame-duck session to see where everybody stands on it. He said he doesn’t plan to seek out many co-sponsors, either, because “that will comes as time goes on.”

“Overall, the Constitution was written with the idea of providing some kind of balance. Between the states and the federal government, there’s a vertical balance and, with the three branches of the federal government, there’s a horizontal balance,” Bishop told TheDC. “To me, it’s not about power. It’s about balance.”

Bishop envisions the Repeal Amendment as an option, not a mandate, for states that are dissatisfied with any particular policy the federal government has enacted. He said the goal of the Repeal Amendment would be to add another check to the system of checks and balances in the government.

Moran said the measure isn’t political, but her organization and the movement for the amendment to the constitution won’t turn away the Tea Party’s motivation. She said the message of the Repeal Amendment is similar, if not the same, in that both movements are calling for limited government and checked, balanced power.

“The language of the proposal is very clear,” Moran said in a phone interview. “It’s not specific to healthcare, and you need two-thirds of the states to approve that a resolution would be repealed. So, whatever would be repealed would have to have a large majority of the American people on board.”

Cantor cites national discontent with several facets of the Obama administration as his reasoning for support for such an amendment, though.

“In just the past few years, Washington has assumed more control over our economy and the private sector through excessive regulations and unprecedented mandates. Our liberty and freedom has lessened as the size and scope of the federal government has exploded,” Cantor said. “Massive expenditures like the stimulus, unconstitutional mandates like the takeover of health care, and intrusions into the private sector like the auto-bailouts have threatened the very core of the American free market.”

There are two ways to get a constitutional amendment proposed: having two-thirds of each chamber of Congress vote to propose it or have two-thirds of the states in the U.S. band together to form a Constitutional Convention, which has the power to call for amendments to the Constitution. If and when an amendment gets proposed, it then must be approved by three-fourths of state legislatures to be ratified.

Moran said her organization is ready to push forward on both ways to the get the amendment proposed, and doubts Washington politicians will act without a serious and viable threat from many states.

Champions of the Repeal Amendment at state levels include Virginia’s Attorney General, Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Utah House Speaker David Clark, South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and members from state governments in New Jersey, Minnesota and Georgia.

Haridopolos told TheDC he’s on board because he has had enough of the federal government pushing over onto the states and that he wants to add the extra balance into the system of government.

“It’s very much in line with what our Founding Fathers talked about,” Haridopolos said. “People have to remember it was the states that formed the national government, not the other way around. So, when I was approached with this idea by Congressman Eric Cantor, as I studied it more, it makes perfect sense to me, and, again, you can still have a real balance between the national government and the state governments in a way that works for states.

Haridopolos said Florida is like several little states when divided by region, and that many other states are the same way. He said a one-size-fits-all government doesn’t work, and that he expects this kind of constitutional amendment to address to some of those concerns.

“I think the purpose it serves is that it would strike the balance again between the relationship in Washington and the state capitols,” Haridopolos said. “Of course, for years, you had the legislatures elect United States Senators, and, of course, we’re not going to reverse that, but at the same time, we want to make sure that, when people go to Washington, we don’t want them to forget who sent them there.”