Time for Constitutional Change

Constitution

Source

The purpose of this article is to discuss proposed changes to our United States Constitution and the roles and processes for turning those proposals into real change. The article will provide a brief history of changes to our United States Constitution, list several changes that have been discussed in articles here on Hub Pages, or through e-mail, and identify actions we need to take to encourage our states legislatures or United States Congressmen to take their next steps.

The changes discussed here have the goals of

  1. ensuring representatives are not rulers,
  2. restoring the role of the States, and
  3. clarifying presidential qualifications.

History of Changes

We have made only twenty-seven changes to our Constitution in over 200 years. It has been over forty years since we have proposed an amendment to the Constitution, and over twenty years since we last approved a change to the Constitution. The last change was proposed over 200 years ago, and was included with the Bill of Rights. Ten of the changes occurred at the same time when the Bill of Rights was ratified. So we have actually changed the Constitution only eighteen times. The average is one change every 10-12 years.

We are overdue, but, much like we had forgotten that our Government gets its authority from the people (we remembered with the elections in 2010), we may have forgotten what is required to make changes to the Constitution.

The Change Process

There are four ways to initiate change that I could come up with as I researched this article.

  • Congressionally Proposed Constitutional Amendment
  • State Proposed Constitutional Convention
  • Congressional Points of Order or "How Congress will do Law"
  • The peoples role, what can we do to help?

Proposing Constitutional Change - Article V of the Constitution describes its own process for change. There are two ways to propose amendments. First, when two thirds of each House agree, they can propose an amendment. Second, when two thirds of the States legislatures ask Congress to call a convention, Congress must call a convention for proposing amendments.

Ratifying Constitutional Change - Congress is allowed to propose the method by which a change to the Constitution can be ratified. The method they choose is also associated with the way the change was proposed. For the change to become law, the Constitution requires either three-fourths of the states agree with a congressionally proposed change, or that three-fourths of the Constitutional Convention agree when a Convention is called.

Enforcing the Constitution Early – One concern that citizens have had is that some members of Congress appear to not want to follow their own laws, nor are willing to restrict their lawmaking to the authorities we’ve granted them under the Constitution. These folks leave us with the feeling that once elected, they regard themselves as the authority for what they can do, and that any challenge to that authority must go through judicial review. (It reminds me of the elementary school game “King of the Hill”, where the King make the rules, and has to be knocked down if you don't like them).

It would be nice if potentially unconstitutional laws were avoided before Congress and the Executive passed them into law. Taxpayer dollars get spent to pass the law, sign it into law, challenge it, and undo it. This is time-consuming and a waste of our taxpayer dollars.

In 2010, the House had a proposal before it to allow identification of the Constitutional authority for any act of Congress.

H.R.450 – Enumerated Powers Act requires each Act of Congress to contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The Act declares that failure to comply with this requirement shall give rise to a point of order in either chamber of Congress.

This one simple change will encourage the people responsible for acting as our representatives to reference the specific authorities we have granted them. It might even encourage them to read the law before signing it, or even better, read the Constitution before swearing to uphold it. Passing laws that are not traceable back to the Constitution should be regarded as irresponsible, and be reason for recall from their position.

(Note - 7 January 2011 - The House passed H.R. 5 - "Adopting rules for the One Hundred Twelfth Congress." Rule number one indicates "All bills and joint resolutions must cite the specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution that allow the enactment of the legislation.")

(Note - 31 July 2011 - Recall of a Senator who does not vote in support of his State's legislature's position is not an option. According to "The Foundry", US Senators cannot be recalled. See their article. )

Repeal the 17th Amendment

What Constitutional Changes Are Needed?

In addition to H.R.450, there are several amendments to the Constitution that have been discussed fairly freely here on Hub Pages and through e-mails.

The Role of the Senate: In our original Constitution, Senators were originally intended to represent for the individual states, and were selected using a constitutionally mandated process that caused them to owe their allegiance to the state that sent them to the Senate (and allowed them to be fired by that State). The perception now is that senators owe their allegiance not to the people nor to their states legislatures, but only to whoever contributed to their campaign.

There have been at least two approaches discussed regarding restoring state representation within our federal government. The first is to simply repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which required Senators be elected through the popular election process. Another is to provide an “after the law is made” mechanism called the Repeal Amendment. This second method, favored by former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, would amend the constitution to give two-thirds of states the power to rescind any act of Congress or federal regulation.

Politics is not in a normal status if politicians and academia are not making it confusing for us to understand. The two approaches are, first: " Repeal the 17th Amendment ", and second: “Pass the Repeal Amendment”. The first method restores a low cost method (involving a hundred senators) for Senators to act as representatives for their States, and ensures they owe their allegiance to their States. The second method provides a high cost (tax-wise) fallback for the cases where a large collection of Senators do not do their job of representation, and are not afraid of being fired either. In other words, our taxes would have to pay for 37 state legislatures to ask for repeal. In my opinion, the first method is the more fiscally responsible method. The second method potentially incurs more long-term tax burden on American citizens to resolve disagreements between Federal government and State governments.

Representatives, not Rulers: There is much concern on the parts of citizens that our elected officials have created for themselves a favored system within government. People believe Congress can retire with full pay after a single term, that their retirement pay increases beyond that based on number of years served, and that they exempt themselves from many of the laws that have been passed for us. In short, the laws for Congress are different from the laws for the people. This leads to the perception that they are a self-appointed ruling class, at tax-payer expense. This appearance of self-serving must stop. The proposed constitutional amendment that has been discussed to correct this is:

“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”

Presidential Qualifications: The question here is simple; do we want to clarify the citizenship requirements associated with eligibility to be President? Amendment 14 of the Constitution indicates that in order to automatically be a citizen of the United States, you have to be born within the United States. Article II section 1 of the Constitution uses the phrase, "natural-born citizen" in its identification of eligibility requirements. We have seen claims that historically, the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen”, at the time the Constitution was written appears to be different from its meaning now, over 220 years later. Back then, ‘Natural born citizen’ meant born in the country, and also born of citizens whose citizenship was solely of this country. In other words, having dual citizenship or being born of parents who held dual citizenship would have prevented you from being President. If citizenship birth-rights are the concern, then come up with some wording to close the loop-hole, and amend the Constitution. Thank our 44th president for attracting so much attention to the need for discussion of the amendment, and move on.

However, if the real concern is loyalty to the United States, then open the discussions as to whether determining loyalty prior to election needs to be one of the eligibility requirements for the Presidency. Goodness knows, we would never have either question about the "Guvenator", everyone knows he cannot qualify to be President. And yet, as far as I know, his loyalty to the United States has never been questioned.


What can "We the People" do to help bring Constitutional Change?

No progress is made simply by offering hypothetical solutions or by arguing merit. So this article includes brief suggestions on what to do next.

If you think we need the states to call a Constitutional Convention, then you need to write to your state government. You will need to find the address or e-mail of the Secretary of State for your State if you want to send your state officials a letter. Consider writing a letter similar to below.

If you think we need to offer up our interpretation of the message we meant to convey with the latest election, then consider sending the following letter. If we see the actions requested in this letter proposed before Congress then we will know that our message has been heard. You may need to send the letter before the incoming representatives get exposed to the old saying ‘things are different in Washington.’

Open Government is becoming more and more feasible thanks to the Internet. Addresses and e-mail addresses for your representative can be found at http://house.gov/. There is a section on the left titled "House Overview". Under that is an area that says "Find Your Representative." Enter your zip-code, click, "go", and the site links to information about your representative. The representative page has an e-mail icon you can click on to try to send your representative a message. When you select the e-mail icon, you are asked to enter your personal information, select the general area of your concern (I used "Government Reform"), and enter your message. When I first did this in 2010, I cut and paste the letter below.

Write a Letter

Authors Note: The original letter requested that our representatives only create laws that could be directly traced to the authorities granted to them under the Constitution, as outlined in H.R.450 of the 2010 Congress above. The letter below was modified from the original since a version of H.R.450 was passed as one of the first actions of the House in 2011. Note that the one resolution of that one Congress is the only item of the original four that has been acted upon.

Please consider the following actions that have the goals of 1) ensuring representatives are not rulers, 2) restoring the role of the States in our federal government system, and 3) clarifying presidential qualifications.

  • Action 1: Sponsor or co-sponsor an amendment to the Constitution stating: “Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
  • Action 2: Sponsor or co-sponsor a request to repeal the 17thamendment to the Constitution.
  • Action 3: Sponsor or co-sponsor a request to clarify eligibility requirements for the Office of President of the United States (with no modifications to be applicable to the current president).

Thank you. I look forward to voting in the next elections.

August 2013 - The Liberty Amendments

A new book authored by Mark Levin titled "The Liberty Amendments - Restoring the American Republic" was released 12 August 2013. The book is published by Threshold Editions, a Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc. A quote from amazon.com from the description of this book says "Levin argues that if we cherish our American heritage, it is time to embrace a constitutional revival." Various book reviews and talk shows in the week that followed share the premise that it is time to begin a national discussion aimed at restoring the balance between federal and state governments.

More by this Author


30 comments

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 24 months ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

I am still somewhat confused. Is this a specific convention that is currently being organized?

In general, a convention is a convention. It seems to me that the imposition of a specific process and purpose as part of an application only gives fuel to those prone to debate and argue. Would it not be sufficient to simply say 'The legislature of the State of ______ hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states.'?


a real patriot profile image

a real patriot 24 months ago

Here's an excerpt from the application that the States submit:

Section 1. The legislature of the State of ______ hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the

federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials.

Specific issues that can be addressed are:

-A balanced budget amendment

-A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)

-A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)

-A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States

-A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)

-Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court

-Placing an upper limit on federal taxation

-Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 24 months ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Why would a convention be limited to the topics it could discuss?


a real patriot profile image

a real patriot 24 months ago

Would love to repeal the 17th…meanwhile, the Article V Convention of States is the way to go. Unfortunately, repealing the 17th isn't an option there as the convention will be limited to amendments that address the federal budget, term limits and the jurisdiction of the federal government. It's a start.


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

FitnezzJim

One Person One Vote

add to the constitution

One bill no tag on


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 2 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thank you for the link wba108. I should have included a link to his material when I made the addition to this article to mention his book coming out.

I agree with the basic goal of trying to restore the balance between federal and state governments. I’m not so eager to get on the bandwagon to try to limit representative’s terms. The analogy I’d offer is a doctor treating a cancer patient whose conditions have progressed to the point that open sores are appearing on his skin. Band-aids will not help, since the underlying condition will produce more open sores. With this analogy, term limits is like a band-aid. Restoring the balance of the system is the real cure, and even when cured, it will be a long time before the sores go-away.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 2 years ago from upstate, NY

I think the liberty amendments idea may have merit. Repealing the 17th amendment may be a pipe dream but I would be all for it. Power in the federal government needs to be checked by the states. I like the idea of amendments for term limits as way to prevent politics as a career, to balance the budget, along with federal taxing and spending limitations.

Here's a link to Mark Levin's liberty amendments for anyone interested.

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/mark-levin-states-...


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thank you Jayfort.

This article was written a couple of years before the Government shutdown of October 2013. The dedication of our politicians to advertising their partisan position during that Government shutdown helped to make it clear to all Americans that they speak for themselves or for their parties. All you have to do is listen to them speak.

For Senators, there is no indication of the position of the State they represent. As a party representative they don’t dare consult with their States governor or States legislature for guidance to how to vote in the Senate. That would be political suicide.

There are a few dedicated groups working towards Constitutional change, but it is difficult since the Congress that initiates the consideration of a change under the Constitution is the same Congress that benefits from the system staying the way it is.


Jayfort 3 years ago

Excellent Hub, sir! Definitely should be read by every American. We really do need to convene another Constitutional Convention as you and Mark Levin point out. Keep up the great work!


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 4 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

True WD, all too true. But, would anybody nowadays mistake Congress for a productive corporation?

Remember in November.


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

You know? I was watching CSPAN I guess the camera person went for coffee and left it on wide angle. I couldn't believe all of the chatter, off task schmoozing, malingering, and disorder of the group. They were hard to redirect. The acting speaker pounded the gavel like Ginger Baker.

You can't act like that in a productive corporation.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

James, I always appreciate your comments.

I'd like to appropriately give credit to who-ever came up with the wording for the amendment you mention, but all I remember is that it came to me in one of those mass-emails.

Thanks.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for publishing this fascinating article. I agree with your idea # 1 about repealing the 17th Amendment.

I see that you mentioned the American Spectator—great magazine and quite witty too.

I love this Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States .”

You had me putting my thinking cap on. Well done!


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thanks KT. Funny, but to date, I've had absolutley no desire to want to even try to communicate with major newspapers or publications. Quite simply, my opinion is they will try to find a way to profit from it, rather than trying to help the people of our country help themselves.

We need to think in terms of WHAT to do about fixing things rather than thinking in terms of 'nobody listens to me'. Here on HubPages, the interaction is one to one (true, everybody gets to watch) and I hope this one article helps.


KT Banks profile image

KT Banks 5 years ago from Texas

I'm so happy to read this article (hub) I think it should be sent to all of the major newspapers and publications. So many people just don't know WHAT to do.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thank you, Max.

Quixotic? Perhaps, but, if I had made the decision not to write this, then the ideas may have never been passed to other people. The steps we need to take might never have been relayed to other people.

We live in interesting times. Americans who had sat quietly for years have begun to wake up and realize that THEY (collectively) are responsible for the people they have elected, and that they do not like what they have allowed to happen. They also have begun to re-awaken to the fact that they have the power to change it, but I truly believe that we still want to think that the only thing we need to do is 'vote the bums out'. We need more than that if we want it to change and stay changed. That was the purpose of this article, simply to put down in words in one concise place the actions we need to take to bring about the change we want.

If folks choose not to help bring about the change they want, then they just have to settle for the change they vote for, whatever it turns out to be.


Max Havlick profile image

Max Havlick 5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

As I said elsewhere, Jim, you are doing here mighty impressive work with lots of emotional and rational forward thrust.

It's always seemed to me that seeking such huge structural changes was quixotic at best, but you may be right the new cultural temperature makes it more conceivable and achievable. I've heard horror stories of state constitutional conventions going far off the rail, but any process depends on competent leaders.

What about you? Do you want to move forward with this as your career? Do you aspire to be a political leader on these issues, or stay behind the scenes as a think tank in a foundation?


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thank you Ms Dee.

Vrajavala, if the Republicans totally duck the concerns raised here, then we'll become more convinced that our system has deteriorated to being nothing more than a partisan contest in which the winner gets to play 'King of the Mountain' for a short time. I may be the only one, but I think the last election was less about disliking democrats and more about showing disapproval for a partisan and lobbyist driven system that gives all appearances of ignoring the people. The democrats just happened to be the targets this time around. It's been like this for decades, winner plays ruler for awhile, we get disgusted, and vote in the other party, who then play ruler for awhile ... and so on.

In my opinion, hubber Opinion Duck is correct, the two party system is a root cause to the degeneration of our system.


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 5 years ago from Port St. Lucie

I'm afraid the Republicans are going to be cowardly about the whole thing, unless we have term limits for them too, and no lifetime pension.


Ms Dee profile image

Ms Dee 5 years ago from Texas, USA

This is an awesome article! Sharing it :) Hope more people see it and follow your suggestions - things we all should do.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Bill thanks for the information. I was not aware of it.

Rosemary, thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Many many people remain upset, and expressed that during the 2010 elections.

For all,

I received a form-letter response from my Congressman saying he values input from his constituency, and invites us to sign up to his Twitter, Facebook, and YuoTube pages, all with links from his government web-site www.wittman.house.gov.


Bill Walker 6 years ago

Just for reference as the author did not mention it. The states have already submitted sufficient applications to cause a convention call. See www.foavc.org to read the over 700 applications.


Pleasure Venues profile image

Pleasure Venues 6 years ago from South West US

necronomicon


LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 6 years ago

There is a lot of very good thought here. Just stating my opinion but don't take it the wrong way as I agree with a lot of what you say. I disagree about the 17th ammendment repeal. Bureacrats appointing bureacrats is never a good thing. Leave the power to the people. If you want senators (or anyone in congress) loyal to the people, pass the "fair elections now act" to reform campaign financing. Before the election, it had 155 Dem Co-sponsors and 2 Republicans in the House. Now that GOP has control over the house, I don't think we'd see any type of campaign finance reform.

Your other 3 points are well taken, I especially agree with equality amoung citzens and congress.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia Author

Thanks all.

Pete, the hope behind repealing the 17th amendment is to ensure allegiance to the states as part of our law-making process. I assume that folks honor their oathes, and so expect them to maintain an overall responsibility to the country as a whole.

Thanks Poolman. I sent my letter as I wrote the article. If I get a response, I will add it in the comments. If you get a response, also feel free to add it.

No Pants, thanks.

JtCarr, Thanks.

And, thank you D.William. As I thought about your questions, I got confused. I'm not sure whether they refer to Action 2 or Action 3. If action 2, then no changes would be retroactive (we take our lumps for allowing it to happen, so any who have perks at the time they are elected would retain them). We get to re-vote their right to earn perks every two years, which is usually a faster time-cycle than the cycle involved with enacting lasting Constitutional change.


d.william profile image

d.william 6 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Excellent article. I agree with the concepts. (Except Action #3). Would those changes be retroactive? Or would all those current perks be grandfathered in?


jtcarr1164 profile image

jtcarr1164 6 years ago from Tueplo, Mississippi

FittnezzJim,

You knocked my socks off too, 'cept now I can't find them anywhere! Great article, I concur with TheManWithNoPants on this. Thank you for posting this one!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 6 years ago from Tucson, Az.

FittnezzJim,

You knocked my socks off here. Well researched, and laid out clearly. I'm sending you an e-mail, so be watching please. Thumbs up, useful, and awesome.

jim


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 6 years ago from Rural Arizona

FitnezzJim - This was an awsome piece of work my friend. I hope everyone in the USA gets to read it, and follows through with sending their letter. My own letter will be in the mail tomorrow. I learned a whole lot just from reading this hub.


Pete Maida profile image

Pete Maida 6 years ago

That, my friend, is one fantastic article. It can be used is civics classes all over the country. You really have a talent for this. I would agree with all of the changes but number three. I believe people in Congress also have a responsibility to the country and a whole. As I described in my article about cutting spending; if all reps just listened to their people none of the wasteful spending would be cut.

I just love the idea of reps not passing any law that did not affect them; that is exactly right is so many ways.

Great job!

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