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Amendment to limit national debt will appeal to states

November 19, 2014

Any effort to call for an amendments convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution must “make the sale” to 34 state legislatures and “close the deal” with 38 states to ratify any amendment. Resolutions to apply for a convention must consider the political appeal of potential suggestions. The National Debt Relief Amendment sets the standard for a highly marketable idea.

The National Debt Relief Amendment says, “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate States.” Anyone can understand what this means: 26 state legislatures would have to “co-sign” for any increase of the federal debt.

Rather than introducing an entirely new idea into the Constitution, this amendment would balance federal power with the power of the states, just like other checks and balances in the Constitution. In fact, the amendment would move the constitutional system closer to its original design—restoring a portion of the power and representation the states had before the 17th Amendment replaced state legislative election of senators with popular elections. What state legislator of any political persuasion will refuse a bigger voice and more power relative to the federal government? At the same time, the people’s right to vote for their U.S. senator remains fully protected.

In short, everyone wins with the National Debt Relief Amendment, except those who think we need unlimited federal debt. It is the first genuinely marketable amendment that’s missing from the Constitution. A similarly powerful pitch is needed by anyone undertaking the monumental task of amending the Constitution through the Article V process.

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.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Complete View of the Founders’ Plan “A powerful idea whose time has come Model legislation



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