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Is Changing the Constitution the Only Way to Fix Washington?


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This story was updated 8/7 to correct the designation of Common Cause. It is a good government group.

Next month delegations of state lawmakers will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, to attend what organizers say will be the first formal convention of states since the Civil War. They’ll gather at the capitol, inside the turquoise-carpeted House chamber, and draw up rules for a hoped-for future meeting: a convention to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

No “amendment convention” has taken place since the Constitution was written over 200 years ago. But the idea is gaining steam now, stoked by groups on the left and right that say amendments drafted and ratified by states are the last, best hope for fixing the nation’s broken political system and dysfunctional — some even say tyrannical — federal government.

“We have a Congress in the United States made up of two bodies — House and Senate — that are incapable of restricting their own power,” said Texas state Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican. With the conventions, he said, states are stepping in to clean up the mess.

The current push for a convention began in the early years of the Obama administration, mostly driven by Republican lawmakers. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are big supporters. So are former presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio. Although many amendment topics have been proposed, the most popular would require the federal government to balance its budget.

Twenty-seven states have passed resolutions in favor of a balanced budget amendment since the 1970s, observers say. The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, the main group currently pushing the idea, says it could get to 34 states before the next presidential election. 


Time for a new Convention?

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