Publius-Huldah's Blog

Understanding the Constitution

The “Compact” Gimmick to circumvent the Powers granted to Congress by Article V

By Publius Huldah

The supremacy clause at Article VI, clause 2, US Constitution, says:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Two bills produced by the Convention of States Project (COSP), SJR 31 & HJR 49, which purport to provide for the selection and control of “commissioners” to an “interstate convention” for “proposing amendments” to our federal Constitution, were filed in the Virginia General Assembly this past session.  The General Assembly postponed consideration of the bills until 2019.

The bills assert that such an “interstate convention” is authorized by Article I, §10, clause 3; the 10th Amendment; and Article V of our Constitution.

As shown below, the bills are unconstitutional because they seek to circumvent Article V; and are not encompassed within Article I, §10, clause 3, or the 10th Amendment. Under the supremacy clause, they would be struck down.

1. What Article V says about amending our Constitution

Article V says:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments…”

Our existing 27 Amendments were obtained under the first method: Congress proposed them and sent them to the States for ratification or rejection.

We’ve never had a convention under Article V – they are dangerous! If Congress calls an Article V convention, our existing Constitution could be replaced with a new Constitution which sets up a completely new structure of government. 1

Nevertheless, the People granted to Congress at Article V the power to “call” a convention; and to the Delegates to the convention, the power to “propose amendments”. 2

Yet COSP, in brazen disregard of the plain meaning of Article V, has long insisted that the States “call” the convention; the States propose the amendments for the convention to rubberstamp; and the States will have total control over the Delegates to the convention.

SJR 31 & HJR 49 are an implicit admission that we who oppose an Article V convention have proved our point: Congress really does “call” the Convention; and pursuant to its grant of power to “call” the convention, Congress really is granted by Article I, §8, last clause, the power to make all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out the powers granted to Congress by Article V; and the States actually have no power over an Article V convention – except to ask Congress to “call” one. 3

The Congressional Research Service Report dated April 11, 2014 likewise reflects Congress’ clear awareness that it alone has the power to organize and set up an Article V convention. The Report says:

“First, Article V delegates important and exclusive authority over the amendment process to Congress…” [page 4]

“Second . . . Congress has traditionally laid claim to broad responsibilities in connection with a convention, including . . . (4) determining the number and selection process for its delegates; 4 (5) setting internal convention procedures, including formulae for allocation of votes among the states; . . .” [page 4] [italics added]

And contrary to COSP’s previous assurances that the States would have total control over an Article V convention, the CRS Report says on page 27:

“In the final analysis, the question what sort of convention?” is not likely to be resolved unless or until the 34-state threshold has been crossed and a convention assembles.”

In other words, we’ll have to get a convention before we know what the Delegates are going to do!

2. The new Gimmick to circumvent Congress’ powers under Article V

SJR 31 & HJR 49 make the bizarre claim that Article I, §10, clause 3, which says:

“No State shall, without the Consent of Congress … enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State…”,

is really talking about an “interstate convention” for the States to meet and “propose amendments” to our Constitution!

First of all, our federal Constitution doesn’t address “interstate conventions”! 5 State and local governments and private organizations may hold nationwide conventions (gatherings) on an endless list of matters: trade shows, book fairs, sports events, high school marching band contests, agricultural fairs, meetings of County Sheriffs, whatever they like! And they don’t need permission from Congress.

Secondly, a “Compact with another State within the meaning of Article I, §10, clause 3, is separate, distinct, and totally unrelated to the Article V convention called by Congress for the purpose of addressing our federal Constitution. “Compact”, as used in Article I, §10, clause 3, means binding agreements or contracts between States which deal with state matters. Traditionally, “compacts” have been used to resolve such matters as boundary disputes between States; and may be used to address various other issues between States. 6

Article V governs amendments to our Constitution – not Article I, §10, clause 3!  Virginia may not lawfully set up any gimmick to circumvent the powers granted by Article V to Congress. And Congress may not lawfully approve a “compact” which violates our Constitution!

Thirdly, SJR 31 & HJR 49 claim the 10th Amendment gives States the power to hold an “interstate convention” to propose amendments to the Constitution. Rubbish! The 10th Amendment addresses powers “reserved to the States…or to the people.” It is inapplicable here because no powers respecting an Article V convention were reserved to the States: The People granted to Congress the power to “call” an Article V convention; and to the Delegates, the power to “propose amendments”. The only power the States have is to ask Congress to call the convention.

Once the requisite number of States has applied to Congress, it’s out of the States’ hands. Pursuant to Article I, § 8, last clause; 7 Congress has the power to make all laws necessary and proper to carry out its power to “call” the convention. And then, our Fate is in the hands of the Delegates; and they can do whatever they want – as they did in 1787.

3. The new Gimmick attempts to circumvent the Plenipotentiary Powers of the Delegates to an Article V Convention.

Article V shows on its face that the convention is the deliberative body. The Delegates hold the Power to “propose amendments”; or, to do what our Framers did at the federal “amendments” convention of 1787 (invoke the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration of Independence) and write a new Constitution which creates a new government.

So, while the States are free to propose amendments to their Congressional Delegations [and this is what James Madison advised]; 8 the States have no authority to dictate the amendments to be proposed at the convention called by Congress.

And as shown in “Why states can’t prevent a runaway convention” and “Delegates to an Article V Convention can’t be controlled by state laws! attempts to control Delegates with “unfaithful delegate” laws are laughably ineffective.

Apparently, COSP now concedes that “unfaithful delegate” bills won’t work, since with SJR 31 & HJR 49, COSP attempts to circumvent the plenipotentiary powers held by Delegates to an Article V convention, by fabricating a new kind of convention (meeting) out of Article I, § 10, clause 3!

4. The solution is to enforce the Constitution we already have

Americans don‘t know what our Constitution says and don’t care what it says. They want what they want; and elect politicians like themselves. The politicians made a mess. To fix the mess, Americans must read our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and enforce them with their votes and by repudiating unconstitutional federal programs. State and local governments must enforce our Constitution by renouncing federal funds to implement unconstitutional programs and by nullification. See also James Madison’s specific suggestions on how States & Citizens can resist federal usurpations.

End notes:

1 This is why Brilliant Men (Madison, Hamilton, four US Supreme Court Justices, and other eminent jurists and scholars) warned against another convention. And this flyer sets forth the Facts of the federal “amendments convention” of 1787 at which our existing Constitution was drafted to replace our first Constitution (the Articles of Confederation).

2 The issue in U.S. v. Sprague (1931) was whether the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) should have been ratified by conventions in each State instead of by State Legislatures. The Supreme Court held that Article V “is a grant of authority by the people to Congress” and that the people “deliberately made the grant of power to Congress in respect to the choice of the mode of ratification of amendments.” Accordingly, Congress had authority to select ratification of the proposed 18th Amendment by State Legislatures instead of by conventions in each State.

3 THIS handy chart lists who has the power to do what respecting an Article V convention.

4 Congress is under no obligation to permit States to participate in the Convention. Congress has the power to appoint its own members, federal judges, or whomever else they want as Delegates!

5 “Convention” has several meanings. It can be a meeting or gathering, such as a national convention of County Court Clerks or architects; or it can refer to a treaty with foreign countries, such as the Hague and Geneva Conventions on the laws of war. The author of SJR 31 & HJR 49 may have fallen victim to the Fallacy of Ambiguity since he slips and slides between the two meanings. “Compact” in Art. I, §10, cl. 3, means “agreement” or “contract” – not meetings!

6 E.g., States could properly enter into “Compacts”, within the meaning of Art. I, §10, cl. 3, wherein they agree to prohibit waste being discharged into a River shared by them; or respecting the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the River. Even though the federal government has no delegated authority to deal directly with such issues; the requirement of Consent by Congress to such Compacts is proper because States situated above or below the proposed dam could be affected by the dam.

Neither the Federalist Papers nor Madison’s Journal of the Federal Convention of 1787 set forth what our Framers meant by “compacts” at Art. I, §10, clause 3. Here are two secondary sources: The Evolving Use and the Changing Role of Interstate Compacts: A practitioner’s guide, by Caroline N. Broun & Michael L. Buenger (see pages 1-9 for the historical basis of “interstate compacts”). See also Justice Story’s “Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States” (1833), Book 3, Ch. 35, §§ 1395-1403.

7 Former law professor and pro-convention operative Rob Natelson’s statements to the contrary are untrue. See “Rob Natelson perverts the Necessary and Proper Clause and thinks in circles”.

8 E.g., Madison’s letter of Nov. 2, 1788 to Turberville (pages 297-301) at the end of Madison’s point 2 [and then read Madison’s point 3!]

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June 13, 2018 Posted by | Article V Convention, Convention of States project, Faithful Delegate Laws, interstate conventions | , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Why States Can’t Prevent a Runaway Convention

By Publius Huldah

The danger of an Article V convention (which made James Madison “tremble”, caused Alexander Hamiltondread”, and Chief Justice John Jay to say that another convention would impose an extravagant risque”) is this: the delegates to the convention can run away: instead of proposing amendments to our existing Constitution, they can write a completely new Constitution with a new – and easier – mode of ratification. 1

The convention lobby implicitly acknowledges this danger when they say State Legislatures should pass “unfaithful delegate” laws to control delegates. 2

Accordingly, Wyoming passed a delegate law earlier this year which purports to empower the WY Legislature to “immediately recall” any delegate who makes an “unauthorized vote” at the convention, and to charge with a felony any delegate who fails to follow the WY Legislature’s instructions on what he may do at the convention. The Texas delegate law purports to make “invalid” any “unauthorized vote” at the convention, and to empower the TX Legislature to recall any delegate who violates his instructions. But Tennessee takes the cake with its delegate law: Not only does the TN law purport to “void” votes cast at the convention by TN delegates which are outside the instructions or limits placed on the delegates by the TN Legislature – and then to prosecute such delegates for a felony; the TN law also asserts that if all TN delegates vote or “attempt to vote” outside the scope of the instructions or limits, TN’s previously filed applications for an Article V convention are to be treated as “having no effect at all”. Other States have passed similar laws.

Such laws are contrary to our Founding Principles and are based on false assumptions. Accordingly, they are unenforceable and ineffective.

1. Self-evident Rights and the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is the Fundamental Act of our Founding.3 It declares that all men are created equal; our rights are bestowed by God; our rights are unalienable; and the purpose of government is to secure the rights God gave us.

The Declaration is not “law” in the ordinary sense – it is higher than law, for it sets forth The Divine Standard which a Constitution – and the laws made pursuant to the Constitution must meet.

It also declares that a People have the self-evident right to throw off their government and set up a new one. With that Principle firmly in mind, let’s look at our first amendments convention; and then, at State unfaithful delegate laws.

2. The federal convention of 1787

After our Revolution, we operated under our first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation. But there were defects in the Articles, so on Feb. 21, 1787, the Continental Congress called a convention to be held in Philadelphia “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation”. The States also drafted instructions which purported to restrict delegates to proposing amendments.

But the delegates ignored their instructions and wrote a new Constitution [the one we now have]. In Federalist No. 40 (15th para), Madison invoked the Declaration of Independence and claimed, as justification for what they did,

“…the transcendent and precious right of the people to ‘abolish or alter their governments as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,’…”

Yet State unfaithful delegate laws claim a power to divest The Representatives of the People – and to criminally prosecute them for exercising – what the Fundamental Act of our Founding declares is a “self-evident” right”!

3. And what if the delegates make their proceedings secret?

The State Legislators who vote for unfaithful delegate laws assume they will be able to know what is going on every minute of every day of the convention.

But Madison’s Journal of the Federal Convention of 1787 (where our present Constitution was drafted) shows that on May 29, 1787, the delegates voted to make their proceedings secret.

If delegates to a convention today vote to make the proceedings secret, the States won’t know what is going on – and can’t stop it. And if delegates vote by secret ballot, the States would NEVER know who did what.

You might think that with cell phones & cameras, it’s impossible to have a secret meeting. But the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which “induces” State Legislators to push the COS application for an Article V convention, is experienced in conducting secret meetings with State Legislators. WATCH this 6.5 minute video of a Georgia TV crew which attempted to get into a meeting held at a Georgia hotel of ALEC and Georgia Legislators.

ALEC, which supports the COS application for an Article V convention, is funded by the Koch Brothers and other mega-corporations. The Koch Brothers spend vast sums on State politicians (e.g., Texas), to get their support for the COS application. Do the Kochs want an Article V convention so they can get a new Constitution which transforms us from a sovereign nation to a member state of the North American Union? And if there is a convention, will armed guards keep the press out? If delegates have been bought by the Kochs, will they tweet & text to the world what they are up to behind closed doors?

4. State Legislatures are “creatures” of their State Constitutions, and have no “competent authority” to control The Representatives of The People at an Article V convention

 Americans have forgotten a Principle which is the basis of free government: That political power originates with The People. 4 The People create governments by means of constitutions. Since a government is the “creature” of its constitution, it can’t be superior to its Creator, The People.

This is why at the federal convention of 1787, where our present federal Constitution was drafted, our Framers understood that only The People were competent to ratify the new Constitution. George Mason said on July 23, 1787,

“…The [State] Legislatures have no power to ratify it. They are the mere creatures of the State Constitutions, and cannot be greater than their creators…”

Keeping that Principle firmly in mind, let’s look at Article V, US Constitution.

It provides that when two thirds of the State Legislatures (“mere creatures”) apply for it, Congress is to call a convention. At that point, it is out of the State Legislatures’ hands – the bell has tolled, and State Legislatures can’t un-ring it. Congress “calls” the convention (sets it up); but when it assembles, the delegates, as Sovereign Representatives of the People, are not answerable to State Legislatures (which are “mere creatures” of the State Constitution) or to Congress (which is a “mere creature” of the federal Constitution). The delegates actually have the power to eliminate the federal and state governments – and that is precisely what the proposed Constitution for the Newstates of America does.

Delegates to a federal convention called by the federal Congress, to perform the federal function of altering or replacing our federal Constitution, are performing a federal function, not a State function. The delegates don’t represent any government, federal or state. 5 They are supposed to represent The People; but in our corrupt time, they are more likely to represent the Koch Brothers (because they have the cash).

Dust off your copy of the federal Constitution we already have, read it and defend it. It filled all Europe with wonder and veneration”. If you don’t do this, we will lose it.

Endnotes:

1 The proposed Constitution for the Newstates of America creates a totalitarian dictatorship. The States are dissolved and replaced by regional governments answerable to the new national government. It is ratified by a national referendum [national popular vote] (Art. XII, §1). Other proposed Constitutions are also waiting in the wings for a convention.

2 The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) claims their model delegate bill “will eliminate the possibility of a ‘runaway convention’ the reason most often cited by scholars for their opposition to an Article V Convention.”

3 Dr. Alan Keyes spoke of this on the radio some years ago; and I knew he had just handed me the Key to understanding our Constitution.

4 See Federalist No. 22, last para (Hamilton).

5 The term, “convention of states”, is a misnomer which gives the false impression that States control the convention. In Rob Natelson’s speech on Sep. 16, 2010,  he said he will no longer call it a “constitutional convention”, but will henceforth say, “convention of states” (pg. 2).

This Chart illustrates who has the power to do what at an Article V convention.

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September 27, 2017 Posted by | ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, Article V Convention, Delegates to a convention can't be controlled, Faithful Delegate Laws, runaway convention, unfaithful delegate laws | , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

   

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