A group of Mississippians is attempting to do something never achieved in the history of our country: Get 34 state legislatures (two-thirds) to hold a Convention of States to propose amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
Article Five of the U. S. Constitution allows for amendments to our constitution. Indeed, our constitution has been amended 27 times. But each time, the amendment process was started by Congress.
But Article Five also provides a process for the states to initiate amendments. If 34 state legislatures vote to do so, the states can hold a “convention of states” and propose its own amendments, which then must be approved by three-fourths of the states.
What’s interesting and different about this process is that Congress has no role. It starts in the states and gets ratified by the states.
The Convention of States movement (conventionofstates.com) has three main proposed amendments: balancing the budget, restricting federal power and calling for Congressional term limits.
The first two are non-starters. Thirty-seven states will never approve these amendments. Too many blue states. But the third, Congressional term limits, could possibly happen. Turns out both red and blue voters favor Congressional term limits.
A recent poll claimed 87 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of independents favored Congress-ional term limits.
So far 20 of the 34 states needed have voted to hold a convention of states, including the Mississippi state legislature in 2019. But the Mississippi legislature only approved the balanced budget and restriction of federal power issues. The legislature did not approve the term limits.
This means that if a convention of states is held, the Mississippi delegate could not vote on the term limits amendment.
The Mississippi chapter of the convention of states is trying to change this and get the state legislature to add term limits to its convention of states approval. So far, that’s been tough slogging.
One reason: Some of the top dogs in the state legislature hope to move on up to a Congressional spot one day. If that happens, term limits would spoil their lifetime appointments.
If you recall, in 1995 Mississippi had a statewide referendum on term limits for statewide offices. It failed 54 to 46 percent.
It failed for a couple of reasons: First, in many rural areas there just aren’t that many qualified people for smaller offices. Secondly, there was the idea that if someone was doing a bad job, the ballot box was the way to remove them, not term limits.
There is, however, a crucial distinction between statewide term limits and Congressional term limits. Congressional offices involve far bigger districts, with far more voters. Challenging a Congressional incumbent requires far more resources than challenging a state legislator.
Second, Congressional posts come with huge advantages to the incumbent. They get an entire staff of dozens with big budgets. They get free advertising and communications in the name of constituent services.
Such an advantage, when trying to get name recognition in a district with hundreds of thousands of voters, is almost impossible to overcome. This is evident in the statistics. In total, 98 percent of all Congressional incumbents are re-elected. That just doesn’t seem right.
Of course, don’t expect a Constitutional Amendment to limit Congressional terms to start in Congress. Ain’t gonna happen. That’s why the Convention of States movement is so interesting. It would be the first time in history the states did an end run around Congress. And what better subject matter to do such an end run than Congressional term limits? It would certainly restore the federal versus states balance of power.
Look at President Biden. He was first elected to Congress in 1972. He’s been up there for 50 years! I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers envisioned. Such longevity makes Congress more like a club than a representative body. There’s a reason we limit our President to two terms. That same reasoning applies to Congress.
I’m not sure what a reasonable number of years would be. Maybe 10 years? Maybe 30 years? But it shouldn’t be for life, which is pretty much the way it works. This undermines democracy and makes Congress less responsive to the will of the people.
Unlike small state offices, there is no shortage of potential qualified Congressman and the huge Congessional staffs will ensure the work gets done competently.
Grant Nooe has been my friend for 40 years. He was in our wedding. He’s gotten excited about this movement. “I’ve been a small businessman in the restaurant business for years. Now I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have the ability to get involved. And I see the need for this.”
Grant was watching a Congressional hearing on TV. At the end, the Republican senator winked at the Democratic senator. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They clearly had a hidden agenda. It’s a club,” Grant told me.
Grant invited me to a meeting with state senator Josh Harkins in the state capitol to try to get term limits added to Mississippi’s convention of states resolution. John Breeland from Clinton and Steve Morris from Ridgeland were there. Good men devoting their time to make the country better.
Josh was very receptive, polite and knowledgeable. (I was most impressed by his prominent corner office. He must be a big shot.) Anyway, how cool is that? Just ordinary citizens can walk into the state capitol and meet with their representatives like this, especially to discuss term limits. That would never happen in China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba or dozens of other countries. We are blessed to live in a free, democratic country.