With the next legislative session just a couple weeks away, I’m reminded of the flurry of new bills that will be introduced by the forty-nine senators. Of the hundreds of bills, there will be a new Convention of States (COS) resolution introduced by my friend Sen. Steve Halloran. When two-thirds of the states (34) have made “application” to Congress, a meeting of states will be called and they will propose amendments to the federal constitution.
Article five provides two ways to propose amendments to the federal constitution; the first way is two-thirds of both the House and the Senate can propose an amendment.
The second way is when two-thirds of the States make application to the Congress it “shall” call a convention where the states get together and propose amendments.
In either case, three-fourths (38) of the states must ratify the amendment before it becomes part of the constitution. This safeguard applies equally to both methods. Thirty-three amendments have been proposed in the history of the country. Twenty-seven of these proposed amendments have been ratified. The process works.
The second part of article five was written on the next to the last day of the Constitutional Convention. As the delegates read the final draft of the Constitution, they had just spent six months creating, Colonel George Mason of Virginia was worried. Article five in the final draft only had the two-thirds of Congress method to propose amendments. He argued: “Col Mason thought the plan of amending the Constitution exceptionable & dangerous. As the proposing of amendments is in both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, in the second, ultimately, on Congress, no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” (See Madison’s notes 15 Sep 1787).
Should the new federal government the states had just created ever someday grow too large and oppressive, Mason felt there was no way Congress would ever propose an amendment to correct itself. Of all the many hundreds of motions and amendments to the text of the constitution that had been made at the constitutional convention, the change adding the second method of proposing amendments by the states was passed unanimously without debate.
Fifteen states have made application so far. I hope we have the votes for Nebraska to be the 16th. I believe the states need to restrain the federal creature they created.
If 2020 has taught us anything, I believe it is clear the day Colonel Mason feared has arrived.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at 402-471-2628.