Any law passed by Congress can be repealed by any succeeding Congress, but changing the US Constitution is a lot tougher. There is only one legitimate method to change the Constitution, and that amendment process is described in Article V. In that process, there are only two ways to even propose amendments.
The first case, proposals made by two thirds of Congress, was explored earlier, and it was seen that the very name of any Congressional action can be deceptive, if not malevolent. Close scrutiny of one “balanced budget” proposal which is now in position to be brought to the floor of the Senate revealed no binding restriction at all. Further, we found that The President would be given power that now lies exclusively with the House of Representatives.
The second method, which some unfortunately recommend, is that of a convention of states. “Congress shall call” for such convention upon the application of two thirds of the states. Before considering this method of proposing amendments, a bit of review regarding the actual writing of the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention may be informative. According to James Madison’s notes, the delegates began their work on May 25, 1887 and signed the document on Monday, September 17 after deliberating some 85 days. They debated Article V on the next to last day.
It has been suggested that the convention of states proposal was possibly offered to gain the signatures of the reluctant Edmund Randolph, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry. In a nutshell, Randolph objected to what he considered the dangerous powers of the proposed government. Mason predicted the government would eventually become a monarchy or a tyrannical aristocracy. Two of Gerry’s fears were the “general power of the Legislature to make what laws they pleased to call necessary and proper” and the power of Congress to “raise money without limit”. The enticement failed to gain the approval of those three.
The general fatigue of the delegates, when none were expecting an excess of a few weeks of work, may have resulted in what could be the most dangerous element in the Constitution. Even James Madison expressed some concern that the convention of states feature fell short of ideal because of its lack of specificity.
When we scrutinize the convention of states method of proposal, we indeed see that the states make application, but Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments”…. That’s it. There’s no mention of how many delegates are to attend. There is no mention of the number of votes granted each state. From a close inspection of the grammatical construction, Congress could even claim the authority to appoint the delegates from each state. There exists no stipulation that would restrict those delegates to the wording, number or kinds of amendments that could be considered.
Perhaps we may recall from our intensive public school studies that the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention were instructed only to amend the Articles of Confederation of the existing government… They actually did a great deal more than what they were authorized to do.
We might exclaim, “They wouldn’t do anything like that now!”. Well, we do have a President that wrote in his book, The Audacity of Hope, pages 91-92, copyright 2006, “… I see a certain appeal to this shattering of myth, to the temptation to believe that the constitutional text doesn’t constrain us much at all, so that we are free to assert our own values unencumbered by fidelity to the stodgy traditions of a distant past”. There may be others who feel the same.
Please Google: “New States of America”.