Conservative state legislators frustrated with the gridlock in Washington are increasingly turning to a plan to call a convention to consider a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution — an event that would be unprecedented in American history and one that could, some opponents predict, lead to complete political chaos. Legislators in 27 states have passed applications for a convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. Proponents of a balanced budget requirement are planning to push for new applications in nine other states where Republicans control both chambers of the legislature. If those applications pass in seven of the nine targeted states, it would bring the number of applications up to 34, meeting the two-thirds requirement under Article V of the Constitution to force Congress to call a convention. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
“There really isn’t much of a precedent. We’ll be charting new waters,” said Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R), a supporter of a constitutional convention. Utah became the 26th state to issue an application last month. North and South Dakota have also approved applications this year.
The problem is that while the Constitution allows amendments to be adopted and sent to the states by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, or by a national convention called by two-thirds of the states, the founding document is silent on how such a convention would operate. How many delegates each state would receive, the rules under which a convention would operate and who would set the agenda would be left up to Congress – all of those would be open questions.