Hamilton: Is it time for a Convention of the States?
November 26, 2014
The recent executive actions and/or inactions by President Obama have raised serious questions as to whether President Obama has overstepped (or, failed-to-perform) the powers/duties assigned to presidents under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.
The most well-known constitutional remedy for abuses of presidential power is provided under Article I, which says the U.S. House of Representatives can pass Articles of Impeachment which are then sent over to the U.S. Senate for a trial by the members of the Senate who can either convict or acquit a sitting president. Conviction means removal from office. Given that the sitting president is a person of color and that his vice president is Joseph Biden, the most well-known remedy is probably not going to be exercised between now and January 2017.
Thomas Jefferson, the co-founder of President Obama's own political party, wrote, "Experience hath shown, that even under best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
So, in their wisdom, our nation's Founders backstopped the impeachment mechanism with Article V of the U.S. Constitution which gives State legislatures the power to act as a final check on the abuse of power in Washington, D.C. Under Article V, state legislatures have the authority to hold a convention that can propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Given President Obama's recent executive orders and pardons with regard to our immigration laws, we may well see renewed interest in the convening of a Convention of the States. Thus far, 32 States out of the 34 required have passed resolutions calling for a Convention of the States.
Should such a Convention be convened, we might expect to see the Convention address topics such as: 1. Presidential prosecutorial discretion. 2. Presidential pardons. 3. A requirement that presidents must actually enforce the laws enacted by the Congress or enacted into law by overriding presidential vetoes. 4. A prohibition of presidential signing statements. 5. A strengthening of the Separation of Powers. 6. Taking some powers away from the federal government and reassigning them back to the states.
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For example, the Convention might put more muscle into Article X of the Constitution which says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Prior to President Obama, some legal scholars have expressed concerns about a Convention of the States. They fear the Convention would write its own rules and set its own agenda. But how about a president who writes his own rules and set his own agenda irrespective of the people's elected representatives in Congress? They fear special interest groups could influence the Convention.
Hello? Maybe the Convention would consider the people of the states as a special interest group. They fear no other body would have authority over the Convention. Not so. Constitutional amendments proposed by the Convention of the States would still have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
We report. You decide. Oops! Wait. Hold the phone! Can you still do that?
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.