Marco Rubio Proposes a Constitutional Convention
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is endorsing a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution, saying it’s the only way to impose term limits on Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court and to require a balanced federal budget. . . .
. . . Rubio told reporters later he has been studying “very carefully” the Convention of States concept to amend the U.S. Constitution and that his former Senate colleague, Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, is an advocate for the initiative.
“It is something we feel very positive about. I think it is the only way that you are ever going to get term limits, and the only way that you are ever going to get a balanced budget amendment,” Rubio added.
Asked if he had concerns about opening up the Constitution to a convention, Rubio remarked, “I think you would have to limit the convention, and that is what they are proposing: a very limited convention on specific delineated issues that they would talk about — like term limits and a balanced budget amendment.”
Approval from 34 states is required for a Convention of States to proceed, and any amendments would need to be ratified by 38 states to become part of the Constitution.
A few observations/words of caution:
- Although term limits have a certain populist appeal, they don’t really work. Term limits haven’t produced more “citizen legislators.” In fact, such laws have succeeded in empowering lobbyists and government employees. As Alan Greenblatt observed a decade ago in Governing magazine, “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that short-term legislators aren’t prone to engage in long-term thinking.” That’s about the long and short of it. Lawmakers may come and go, but special interests and bureaucrats are forever.
- The idea of term limiting U.S. Supreme Court justices is a popular one, which is exactly why it should give people pause. As David Harsanyi argued at The Federalist in a 2014 piece:
It is pretty clear, though, that through lifetime appointments, the Founders wanted to shield judges from the political pressures of the day. But an excellent byproduct of having ancient, long-serving justices is that they are far more likely to be impervious to . . . fleeting populist bugaboos and contemporary preferences . . . . This should be about the long game.
- A balanced budget amendment offers no guarantee of fiscal rectitude. For a good sense of how a balanced-budget amendment would work in practice, one need look no further than California.
- There is no real way to limit a constitutional convention. Remember, the Framers of the Constitution of 1787 were only sent to Philadelphia to fix the original Articles of Confederation. But James Madison had something quite different in mind. Sure, it worked out well the first time. But it is no mere exercise in nostalgia to say the Founding generation was far wiser (even when bitterly divided) than the vast majority of those who would pass for statesmen in our day. The point is, any Convention of the States is bound to take up questions beyond limiting legislative and judicial terms or balancing the federal budget. So let’s be careful what we wish for.
Sen. Rubio says he’s given this idea a great deal of thought. He might do well to spend some time with the original Federalist just the same.