For the umpteenth time, somebody sent me an email trumpeting something called “the 28th amendment.”
One of the emails even suggested that I am supporting or promoting it.
Well, not exactly.
I’m all in favor of amending the United States Constitution. In fact, I have been working very hard to organize an amendatory convention on the Internet.
And I certainly agree that something has to be done to rein in a Congress which seems to think it has the right to spend the public treasury on whatever it wants, including benefits for the Representatives and Senators themselves.
But the email that is going around is full of misconceptions and misinformation.
First, the number of Governors who are suing the Federal Government over the Health Care Bill has nothing to do with a convention or any constitutional amendment.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments when requested by the legislatures of two-thirds of the States. That’s 34 States, not 38 as claimed in the email.
The convention would not be a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention writes a constitution. That’s not what an Article V convention does.
An Article V convention is an amendatory convention. Article V speaks about amendments to THIS constitution. It does not authorize or contemplate a new or different constitution.
Which brings me to the actual language of the so-called 28th amendment, being circulated by so many well meaning Americans. It says:
“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
The first part sounds pretty good. But does it refer only to laws that apply to all citizens or to any law that applies to any citizens?
I suppose it was intended to mean that Members of Congress couldn’t exempt themselves from Social Security taxes or from military conscription. But doesn’t it also say that members of Congress must receive food stamps, and every other entitlement that any citizen gets?
The second part makes no sense either.
If members of Congress must do for all citizens whatever they do for themselves, it follows that they must pay every citizen a Congressional salary, currently $174,000 a year, and provide every citizen with whatever else members provide for themselves, such as an office in Washington, D.C.
The writing of a constitutional amendment is not something that can be done by somebody sitting at his kitchen table. It requires thought, study, and careful examination by lots of different pairs of eyes.
After all, the Constitution and its amendments are the supreme law of the land. They must say what they mean and mean what they say.
Which is why I insist that an Article V convention is needed. Not just a single purpose, one-time gathering to push a particular amendment, but rather an ongoing, permanent institution which will run every idea for constitutional change through a meat grinder of critical thought and debate, so that whatever ultimately goes to the states to be ratified is worthy of the support and approval of all Americans.
In the words of George Washington, it must be the “Explicit and authentic act of the whole people.”