The National Debt Relief Amendment would amend the U.S. Constitution to require any increase in the federal debt be approved by a majority of state legislatures. This would bring planning, transparency, and accountability to any more federal borrowing. The amendment would force the federal government to make the case for adding debt early in the budget process to secure approval by 26 states. Congress could never again impose a multi-trillion dollar mortgage on our children with a last-minute scramble to raise the debt limit.
So why are some of Arizona’s most conservative state senators refusing to allow a full vote on the NDRA? They have been led to believe the false claim that any convention of the states to propose the NDRA under the authority of Article V of the U.S. Constitution would “runaway” and that our Constitution would be rewritten. But during the Constitutional Convention, on September 15, 1787, the Founders specifically rejected efforts to change Article V to allow for an open or “general” convention that could rewrite the entire Constitution. Instead of giving Americans this wide-open ability to rework the Constitution as a whole, the Founders kept the current limited language that only allows us to propose amendments, and requires any amendment proposed by an Article V convention to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Some people have also made the claim that there was a split among the Founders on this issue, and that James Madison feared the Article V process. But the actual historical record shows that the Founders unanimously supported the use of the Article V amendments convention process by the states. In Federalist No. 43, James Madison urged the states to ratify the Constitution because Article V “equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors.” Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist No. 85 that a second constitutional convention was unwise and unnecessary because Article V gave states an adequate ability to propose specific amendments to the Constitution “to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”
Article V gives the states ultimate authority over the federal government by giving them the power to amend the U.S. Constitution—the very document that defines the federal government. That power must not be abandoned by any genuine champion of state sovereignty.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
The Online Library of Liberty: The Records of the Federal Convention for September 15, 1787
The Online Library of Liberty: The Debates in the Several States Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (See pages 356-358)