Saturday, November 19, 2016

TIME FOR ACTION: Americans must rally behind Trump's term limits call

Seemingly overnight, Congressional term limits are back on the front-burner, with President-elect Donald Trump calling a Constitutional Amendment a priority for his first 100 days.

Trump has done his homework. In his call for Congressional term limits, he has cited the specific terms called for in the existing U.S. Term Limits amendment bills of three terms (six years) in the U.S. House and two (12 years) in the U.S. Senate. He knows there is a block of Congress members who have signed the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge to "cosponsor and vote for" such a bill.

In fact, that pool of committed support just grew larger on Election Day, when 13 new signers were elected to Congress. Right now, there are 48 signers elected to the House and Senate. The table has been set for a Trump to ring the dinner bell.

"We want to see new voices."
This pool of signers does not count those now coming out of the woodwork to support the new president's call. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke in favor of Congressional term limits over the past week as well as newly minted Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). In Khanna's words, "We need term limits and I’ll work across the aisle to impose these term limits."

Even President Obama weighed in in favor of the idea in the wake of Trump's announcement. Obama told reporters at the first post-election press conference that “I think we want to see new voices and new ideas emerge. That's part of the reason why I think term limits are a really useful thing.”

"We need term limits" -- Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) 
Polling on the issue continues to show super majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents support Congressional limits.

So, with two presidents calling for it, 48 Congress members pledged to push it, the House Speaker open to a vote and broad bipartisan support, what could go wrong? 

A lot actually. You can bet the permanent incumbency will fight back. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already declared that he is ready to fight to keep power.
Old guard is prepping for a fight.

"It will not be on the agenda in the Senate," Sen McConnell declared.

Nonetheless, the incoming president is not backing down.

“We’re going to put on term limits, which a lot of people aren’t happy about, but we’re putting on term limits,” Trump told 60 Minutes last Sunday. “We’re doing a lot of things to clean up the system.”

But he cannot do it alone. Citizens need to act right now to show support for Congressional term limits and ask their representatives to call for a vote.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"CONvention CONspiracy" losing its fearful power

In the animated movie Monsters Inc., the eponymous company was falling on hard times as it had become ever harder to terrify human children in a modern society. Yet, fear -- an energy source -- was how the firm generated its profits.

The opponents of the Term Limits Convention are running into the same problem.

Once considered a potent tool to thwart efforts to limits terms of Congress, the myth of the Convention Conspiracy -- or "CON CON" -- is losing its ability to scare voters, legislators and, presumably, children who do their homework.

The Conspiracy Conventioneers claim that nefarious forces -- including groups like U.S. Term Limits -- are plotting to utilize an Article V amendment convention to rewrite or abolish the Constitution.

To anyone who has examined the issue, the CON CON is ridiculous on its face and more and more people are examining it. In the state capitols, where the term limits convention bills are being debated, we find that few really believe the CON CON story.

Under Article V, the Founders provided two methods for amending the Constitution.  One is the Congressional method, under which the U.S. Congress can – with a two-thirds vote – propose a Constitutional amendment.  The Congress is under no limitations in what it proposes. Indeed, some 200 amendments are introduced to Congress every session. Few ever meet the high threshold required by Article V to qualify them as official proposals that can be sent to the states. Those that do pass muster have zero force or effect until three-quarters of the states ratify them. This has only happened 27 times in U.S. history and ten of those are the Bill of Rights, ratified immediately after the Constitution was adopted.

The second method is the convention route. It was added to satisfy those of the Founders such as Anti-Federalist George Mason of Virginia who were concerned the new Constitution gave too much power to the Federal Government. The states needed a way to amend the Constitution without relying on Congress. Hence, the convention route was added – the final draft largely written by Federalist James Madison – and approved unanimously at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

The Convention route gives a convention – called upon applications by two-thirds of the states – the same power as the Congress to propose amendments. It does not create any additional powers to enact, alter or abolish any law.  The convention is, as Article V states, a "convention for proposing amendments."

Unlike a session of Congress, conventions can be called for limited purposes. Indeed nearly all applications for Article V conventions have been applications for conventions to tackle specific issues.  Historically, there have been over 400 calls with at least one from every state.

Whether limitation to one issue is possible is the central fetish of the Conspiracy Conventioneers.  This is absurd.  If 34 states apply for a limited convention, a limited convention will be called. With delegates chosen for the limited convention and sent with instructions with a limited convention in mind, there is no reason to think that a convention would not be limited. Indeed, in spite of occasional grandstanding by politicians, conventions have historically stayed on subject, as have most hearings and other government meetings officially called for a specific purpose.

But the real safeguard lies with the states and with the people. Any amendment proposed by an Article V convention must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. That is 38 states, or at least 75 individual legislative chambers as most states (except Nebraska) have two.  To think that anything outrageous -- or even controversial -- can survive that gauntlet is quite fanciful. Indeed, we believe only immensely popular and bipartisan proposals like term limits or maybe a balanced budget amendment have a snowball's chance of meeting that threshold.

This does not mean we never hear about the Convention Conspiracy as we advocate for a term limits convention. But increasingly, the CON CON myth is used as cover for politicians and front groups who don't want to admit to voters they oppose term limits or a balanced budget amendment.  They would rather pretend they are standing up for citizens, rather than against them.

They know there are still good people who, having not yet investigated the CON CON, will quake as the term limits opponents share their ghostly tale.  However, there are less every day.

Just as in the movie, no one is a greater threat to the fear-mongers than someone who knows the truth -- and is not afraid.