States one step closer in uphill, unconventional approach to amend Constitution, limit federal govt power

Nebraska State Sen. on the call for convention to amend U.S. Constitution

A state senator calling for constitutional amendments said that “overreach on the part of the federal government” has forced states to attempt reform in a way never accomplished before. 

The Nebraska Legislature passed a resolution Jan. 28 calling on states to begin the formal process to pass constitutional amendments that would limit the federal government’s spending and jurisdiction, as well as set term limits for members of Congress.

“What’s driving this as much as anything is overreach on the part of the federal government,” Nebraska state Sen. Steve Halloran, who sponsored the resolution, told Fox News.

“The Founding Fathers had anxiety that that might happen,” he said. “I don’t believe they imagined that it would get to this point.”

the first amendment to the US Constitution

Under Article V of the Constitution, state legislatures can bypass Congress to propose and vote on constitutional amendments through a convention of states. 

Halloran’s resolution, LR14, is Nebraska’s application for a convention that would discuss amendments to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”

“It’s become abundantly clear with the history of Congress that they have no sense of limiting their spending and the accrued debt that’s happening upon our nation,” Halloran said, calling the U.S.’s $30 trillion national debt “unsustainable.” 

“We have effectively kicked that can down the road on repayment of any of that, but we cannot kick the can down the road every year,” he continued.

It takes 34 states to call the convention and 38 states are needed to ratify an amendment. Nebraska was the 17th state – marking the half-way point – to pass such a resolution since the effort started in 2013. Wisconsin passed one the week prior.

Jan. 8, 2016: Gov. Greg Abbott calls for a convention of states to amend the Constitution during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.
(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Halloran urged other states to “seriously consider” the legislation to call for a Convention of States.

“It’s an exercise in what the Constitution is,” he told Fox News. “I think it would be a great civics lesson once it happens.”

The resolution has passed one chamber in eight states, and legislation is pending in 15 more state legislatures. A convention of states under Article V has never been called.

Amendments instead have been proposed through Congress. Only 27 have been added since the Constitution was adopted.

“We have to look at the historic surroundings of when the Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787 and understand full well what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the states to have equal footing with the Congress in proposing amendments,” Halloran said. He told Fox News he believes this is the states’ opportunity to reclaim powers they relinquished to the federal government. 

George Washington’s personal copy of the Constitution is said to fetch up to $3 million at Christie’s.

Halloran said he believes the Founding Fathers would have supported term limits if they had the power of hindsight. He told Fox News that such issues are why they gave states the power amend the Constitution.

“We have career politicians now instead of citizen statesmen,” he said. 

“We can’t operate this country on fear, uncertainty and doubt,” Halloran added. 

Teny Sahakian is an Associate Producer/Writer for Fox News. Follow Teny on Twitter at @tenysahakian.

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