In recent years, talk has grown about amending the Constitution to address issues such as a balanced budget, term limits, corporate personhood and a direct vote for president. But the Founders placed a high bar for constitutional change.
Since 1789, the Constitution has been amended just 27 times. But in the past two decades, major events such as the 2000 presidential election, the constant budget battles in Congress and the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision have given new momentum to groups that want constitutional change now.
In Article V, the Founders designed two paths toward constitutional change. The path used for the first 27 amendments has been the legislative path. It requires a two-thirds majority vote by the House and the Senate before a proposed amendment is sent to the states, where three-quarters of the states must ratify an amendment to make it the law.
But there are staunch supporters of a second process that has never been used, but is spelled out in the Constitution. It allows the legislatures of two-thirds of the states to call a Constitutional convention to propose an amendment, or amendments. Then, as in the traditional process, three-quarters of the states would ratify an amendment to make it the law.
We’ve invited two proponents who agree on a basic premise, as an example of this evolving debate about constitutional change. They both think that the Citizens United decision should be mitigated. But they both strongly disagree about the process. And it is the debate about process that affects all discussions about new amendments and legislative policy, whether they focus on a balanced budget, the Electoral College, or the Affordable Care Act.
Cenk Uygur is the host of the YoungTurks, the largest online news show in the world at www.YouTube.com/TheYoungTurks, and Founder and CEO of www.TYTNetwork.com. Cenk was also instrumental in launching Wolf-PAC (#wolfpac), a group that wants states to propose and ratify an amendment to the Constitution to end corporate personhood, without the interaction of Congress.
Meredith McGehee is Policy Director at the Campaign Legal Center where she directs the legislative and media policy efforts. In addition, she is the principal of McGehee Strategies, which specializes in public interest advocacy campaigns. Meredith advocates changes through the existing legislative process to address the fallout from Citizens United.
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