If pro is the opposite of con, so goes a popular political jab, then Congress is the opposite of progress.
Just 19 percent of Americans approve of the job our federal legislative branch is doing, according to a Gallup poll taken last month. Though the figure has crept up from a low of 11 percent in November 2015, more than three quarters of us still think there’s something fishy on Capitol Hill.
Most Americans think Congress as a whole is doing a lousy job, yet we’ve entrusted it exclusively with the power to propose constitutional amendments. It’s like turning the car keys and credit card over to a tempestuous teenager who’s notorious for bad judgment.
There’s another way, however, to alter our nation’s founding document. And it edged closer to becoming a reality on Tuesday.
Resolutions introduced in the General Assembly call for North Carolina’s participation in an Article V Convention of States, an alternate mechanism to amend the Constitution that cuts Congress out of the equation and places power back into the citizens’ hands.
A convention to propose constitutional amendments can occur with consent from a two-thirds majority of state legislatures, according to Article V of the U.S. Constitution. If at least 34 of the 50 states agree, amendments advance. Then 38 states, or three-fourths, must ratify them before they take effect.
Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom and foresight to make this option available, envisioning a time where partisan gridlock in Congress could quash the people’s will. The closer a governing body is to its constituents, the more representative and responsive it tends to be. The average North Carolinian has more leverage in Raleigh than in Washington.
Groups lobbying for an Article V convention want to rein in federal power, taking authority from D.C. and returning it to the statehouses. Term limits for members of Congress and restrictions on federal spending top the organizers’ lists.
Congressmen aren’t likely to propose amendments that would reduce their influence and cut short their lucrative careers on the Hill. If the American people want it done, it will take a Convention of States to do it.
We are firm believers in the value of term limits. The founders intended Congress as a citizen legislature where ordinary Americans would serve for a short time in the interest of public service, then return to their primary occupations. Over time, a professional political class emerged and entrenched itself in the people’s capital.
It’s time to send our long-serving lawmakers home and give others a chance to govern as servant leaders.
Ever-expanding government and runaway federal spending has saddled us with a national debt approaching $20 trillion. The interest alone on that debt is among the top six budget expenditures.
It’s time to start living within our means.
The federal government has amassed too much power.
It’s time to return some of that power to the states — and to the people.
It’s time for the N.C. General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for a Convention of States.