The Missouri legislature is considering a move to join other states in asking for the federal government to be reined in.
Lawmakers are looking at two resolutions calling for a “convention of states”, which is a meeting to form proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution.
The organization behind the resolutions, itself known as Convention of States or COS, has three priorities. It wants to restrain federal spending, reduce the jurisdictional reach of Congress and impose term limits on many federal officials, including Supreme Court Justices.
COS Missouri organizer Keith Carmichael says the effort’s intended to use the constitution, to amend the constitution, as envisioned by the founding fathers.
“We talk about the election that we had just a few months ago being a peaceful, constitutional transfer of power” said Carmichael. “Well this is too. It’s one the framers gave us in which it’s a peaceful constitutional transfer of power, but it’s from the federal government back to the states.”
As stipulated by the constitution, 34 state legislatures would have to pass largely the same resolution to legally call for a convention of states. So far, nine have done so, all of which are under Republican control. Arizona’s legislature was the last state to join the movement when it passed the resolution earlier this month.
Any proposals drawn up at a convention of states would have to be approved by 38 states to become federal law.
Two other groups in addition to COS have formed with similar, but not the same, intentions. The organization Term Limits is focused on the singular topic of imposing a limit on the length of time members of the U.S. Congress can serve. The group Americans for a Balanced Budget Amendment (ABBA) wants to assemble a convention of states for the purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment.
The resolutions drafted by COS were introduced in 37 state legislatures last session. Carmichael notes the Supreme Court has determined that the documents must “aggregate”, or agree, and call for the same meeting.
Such agreement may have alluded Arkansas however, which floated two resolutions in the past several weeks. One included language seeking a constitutional amendment to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman, while the other called for a declaration that life begins at conception.
A resolution closely adhering to language in the COS model for legislation more recently passed the Arkansas Senate.
State sponsors are allowed to make contributions to the COS resolution.
The power to organize a convention of states falls under Article V of the constitution. The two pieces of legislation in front of Missouri lawmakers are Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 and House Concurrent Resolution 5, which are almost identical.
They include the verbiage ”WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent spending”.
Carmichael offered his thoughts supporting the passage. “Plus the money that we’re borrowing to pay back, and pay the interest, we’re still borrowing over $4.5 billion dollars a day just to pay the bills every night.”
Although Carmichael vehemently claims the COS movement is bipartisan, conservatives have long been much more focused on the national debt than other ideological groups. Carmichael also said the organization has strong ties to former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a noted conservative lawmaker.
The Republican dominated Missouri legislature has come close to passing a COS backed resolution in the recent past. Both chambers have given approval, just not in the same year. The House passed the resolution in 2016 while the Senate approved it in 2015.
Carmichael says COS, which currently has 2.1 million members, has risen quickly in its four years in existence. “Our organization is actually on a trend, and on track, to be at 5 million grass roots volunteers, or supporters by the end of next year. That’s a trend I think will continue.”