The Next Move: Using the Constitution to Save the Constitution, Part II
*This is the second part of a three part post-election series of articles in favor of an Article V Convention of States. In last week’s article I advocated for an amendment to establish term limits for members of congress term-limits for congress and an amendment to establish term limits for Supreme Court Justices.
Below are amendments to balance the budget, rein in the federal bureaucracy and an amendment for the purpose of restoring the Senate to its original function.
An Amendment to Limit Federal Spending and Taxation (Balanced Budget Amendment):
Section 1: Congress shall adopt a preliminary fiscal year budget no later than the first Monday in May for the following fiscal year, which will begin on October 1st, and submit said budget to the President for Consideration. Should Congress fail to adopt a budget prior to the start of each fiscal year or should the President fail to sign said budget into law, an automatic, across-the-board, 5% reduction in expenditures from the prior fiscal year’s budget shall be imposed for the fiscal year in which a new budget has not been adopted.
Section 2: Total outlays of the United States Government for any fiscal year shall not exceed its receipts for that fiscal year. Total outlays of the United States Government shall not exceed 15% of the nation’s GDP for the previous calendar year.
Section 3: Congress shall not collect more than 15% of a person’s annual income, from whatever source derived. Congress is hereby forbidden from collecting a death or estate tax.
Section 4: The deadline for filing federal income tax returns shall be the day before the date set for elections to federal office.
- The federal government is currently taking in a record $3.1 trillion dollars, despite that we have a $20 trillion dollar national debt and over $100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. It is clear the federal government has a spending problem, a problem that they will not fix because they are not properly incentivized to fix it. As Milton Friedman observed in a 1983 Atlantic op-ed,
It is not in the interest of a legislator to vote against a particular appropriation bill if that vote would create strong enemies while a vote in its favor would alienate few supporters. That is why simply electing the right people is not a solution.
With the above Amendment, or some variation of it, politicians would be forced ,by constitutional design, to be fiscally responsible. The balanced budget amendment would limit how much the federal government can tax an individual, and would abolish the death tax.
- By placing Tax Day to the day before federal elections, voter anger and frustration will be fresh as they head to the polls the following day, thus discouraging federal officials from unnecessarily raising taxes.
- Section 2 is the provision that mandates a balanced budget as well as limits the amount of money the federal government is to spend each year to 15% of the previous calendar year's GDP. Our GDP in 2014 was $17.42 trillion dollars, meaning the Federal government would be constitutionally limited to spend a maximum of $2.6 trillion dollars.
An Amendment to Rein in the Federal Bureaucracy:
Section 1: All Federal Departments and agencies shall expire if said departments and agencies are not individually reauthorized in stand-alone reauthorization bills every three years by a two-thirds supermajority vote in the House and Senate.
Section 2: All Executive Branch regulations exceeding an economic burden of $100 million dollars, as determined jointly by the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office, shall be submitted to a permanent Joint Committee of Congress hereafter the Congressional Delegation Oversight Committee, for review and approval prior to their implementation.
Section 3: The Committee shall consist of seven members of the House of Representatives, four chosen by the Speaker and three chosen by the Minority leader; and seven members of the Senate, four chosen by the Majority Leader and three chosen by the Minority Leader. No member shall serve on the Committee beyond a single three year term.
Section 4: The Committee shall vote no later than six months from the date of the submission of the regulation to the committee. The Committee shall make no changes to the regulation and must approve or disapprove the regulation by a majority vote. If the Committee does not act within 6 months from the date the regulation was issued, the regulation shall be considered disapproved and must not be implemented by the Executive Branch.
- In K-12 civics courses across America, kids are taught that we have three co-equal branches of government, the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial. kids are then taught that each branch is meant to serve as a check on the other branches from exercising too power. They are taught that the responsibility of the judicial branch is to interpret the law and adjudicate criminal and civil cases, that the executive branch enforces the law and that the legislative branch writes the law.
- Today, however, the doctrine of separation of powers have been eroded as the legislature has unconstitutionally delegated authority to the executive; the executive has simultaneously seized power from the legislative and the courts has circumvented the legislature acting as a super-legislature that mostly rules to delegate more power to the executive. The result of this has been the rise of the unaccountable, bloated, power-hungry fourth branch of government we know as the bureaucracy.
- Although it is impractical and unrealistic to completely dismantle the administrative state at this point, this amendment serves as a check on its ability to issue massive, job-killing regulations with no response from the people’s representatives.
- By forcing each federal department to come under congressional and public scrutiny every three years, it will provide an opportunity to cut waste in government and dramatically reduce the size, scope and influence of the federal government in our lives.
- Below is an outline of the number of regulations issued each year in the federal register compared to the number of laws enacted by congress, the numbers provide further evidence of the breakdown of our constitutional system:
Rules published to the Federal Register- Bills enacted into law-
2005: 3,943 109th Congress: 483
2006: 3,718 110th Congress: 460
2007: 3,595 111th Congress: 385
2008: 3,830 112th Congress: 284
2009: 3,503 113th Congress: 296
2010: 3,753 114th Congress: 177
An Amendment to Restore the Senate:
Section 1: The Seventeenth Amendment is repealed. All Senators shall be chosen by their state legislatures as prescribed by Article I.
Section 2: A Senator may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of the state legislature. When a vacancy occurs in the representation of any state in the Senate for more than ninety days the governor of the State shall appoint an individual to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.
Section 3: This amendment shall not be construed as to affect the term of any Senator before the repeal of the 17th Amendment becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
- One of the detrimental actions taken during the progressive era of the early 1900’s was the destruction of the Senate. The thinking at the time went something along the lines of this: if democracy in a limited sense is good, then more democracy must be even better. By allowing “the people” to choose their Senators, they would get better representation.
- Of course the opposite was true as the seventeenth amendment, ratified in 1913, has eroded Federalism, increased the size and power of the federal government and given American people worse representation in the Senate.
- Our Framers did not establish a pure democracy but rather a representative, constitutional republic with democratic inputs. This republican system of government would serve as a check against the unbridled populist passions of an electorate while simultaneously establishing a government for and by the people.
- At the beginning of the Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph of Virginia submitted the Virginia Plan, authored by James Madison, which called for a bicameral national legislature. With the lower body elected directly by the people in each congressional district, which would be determined by population and an upper body, with equal (2) representation from each state, with the representatives chosen by the State Legislatures. George Mason, who at first opposed the motion to elect Senators from the State Legislatures, came around to supporting the motion, "The second branch of the national legislature should flow from the legislature of each state, to prevent encroachments on each other and to harmonize the whole."
- We can see the detrimental effects on this breakdown of federalism today; for example the state of Arizona took strong action against illegal immigration with the passage of S.B. 1070 in 2010, meanwhile their state’s Senator, John McCain (R-AZ) was leading the effort on behalf of President George W. Bush to push mass amnesty legislation. Fast forward to 2013 when the Gang of Eight was pushing for mass legalization and two of the eight members were Arizona’s own John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
- These two men are deeply unpopular among the Republican controlled state legislature in Arizona and among the grassroots in Arizona and yet they (especially McCain) are continually reelected. Thus, Arizona has no recourse or input at the federal level on the issue of immigration.
- Under the original Constitution, the state legislature would be able to take action and remove them from office.
- This disproves the progressive fallacy at the time that more democracy would lead to better representation; now with senators unaccountable and un-beholden to their home states, they get in bed with lobbyists on Capitol Hill pursuing interests almost always contrary to the interests of their state, raise vast sums of money to pummel any primary challenger and use the large media microphone to lie and deceive the voters as to what they are doing in DC and get reelected. By repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, and restoring the Senate to its original constitutional function, the states will be able to have a voice and impact again in federal affairs.
Next week will be the final installation of this post-election series of articles in favor of an Article V Convention of States. I will propose an amendment to restore the commerce clause and an amendment to promote cultural assimilation and unity. In addition, I will address some of the concerns and arguments against it that are often brought up by opponents of a Convention of States.
Follow this author on twitter @NYanakas