We here at Utah Political Capitol would like to thank you for trudging through the extremely long resolution title being proposed by Republican Representative Merrill Nelson of Grantsville, because his very dry sounding HJR 3 – Joint Resolution Calling for a Convention of the States for the Sole Purpose of Proposing a Contermand Amendment to the United States Constitution hides an extremely troubling proposition for not only Utah, but for the very foundation of our union, if Nelson’s idea is carried to its logical conclusion.
First, some clarification: resolutions, such as Nelson’s HJR 3, are not quite the same as a bill that could become a law. Resolutions require something external to happen prior to an action being taken – for example a vote of the people or other states signing on to a plan. Because of this, Nelson’s resolution does not pose an immediate threat to the fabric of our nation, but it does present a disturbing thought, none the less.
It should come as no surprise to political observers that Republicans across the state and nation are not fans of President Obama, “activist judges,” and “East/West Coast liberals” in Congress. To this end, several conservative states, groups, and lawmakers have been racking their brains to find a way to somehow uphold the laws they firmly support even after they have been overturned by the courts, nullified by Congress, or blinked out of existence with executive orders.
Though the issue of state versus federal rights has existed since the Articles of Confederation, the anger towards the federal government has increased exponentially over the past 40 years and, not at all coincidentally, reached disturbingly high levels in the past six.
One way conservatives feel they can overturn any law passed down from the federal government is to establish what is known as a “Con Con.” In October, Utah Political Capitol reported that two lawmakers, Representatives Brian Greene (Republican – Pleasant Grove) and Marc Roberts (Republican – Santaquin), supported the idea of a Con Con with the expressed purpose of creating a Constitutional amendment that would allow state legislatures to collectively overturn any federal law.
Under Nelson’s proposal, three-fifths of all state legislatures can vote to overturn any act of congress, executive order, federal court decision, administrative agency decision, or “other action deemed injurious to the states and the people.” In short, if 30 states disagree with any federal action, they can successfully usurp federal law.
Though 30 out of 50 states sounds not only reasonable but downright democratic, the reality of the situation is that if the Constitution is amended to allow a Contermand Amendment, such as what Nelson is proposing, this would provide an extreme shift in power in favor of the smaller states and potentially destabilize the United States government. Why? Because, unlike Congress, where states are given a number of seats according to their population, this version of a Con Con would give every state the same number of votes. So although California has over 38 million people, they would only have the same voting power as Wyoming with its 576,000 residents. That enormous shift in the balance of power could theoretically allow representatives of only 26 percent of the U.S. population to call the shots and dictate the course of both domestic and foreign national policy.
The stark reality is that Nelson’s resolution, if reached to its logical conclusion, would create a fourth branch of government that could override any action by any of the other three branches. Indeed, that is the stated goal of the legislation.
Most disturbing is that this fourth branch would have no checks and balances placed upon it.
If 30 states with 26 percent of the population chose to overturn 227 years of constitutional law, congressional law, executive decisions, and administrative decisions (a theoretical possibility if the resolution meets its logical end), the United States government would be reset to 1787 with the Constitution itself as the only document dictating all government policy.
Though this may sound extreme, it is designed to prove the point that a Con Con holds an extreme amount of power among a super-minority.
The last time some states felt that they could ignore federal law an unknown number of civilians and 750,000 soldiers from the North and South lost their life. Though Nelson’s proposal would be both legal and, indeed, Constitutional, it would no doubt mark the beginning of the end of the government created by our founding fathers.
Con Con supporter, Representative Greene surely agrees with our analysis and how revolutionary and unpopular the idea of Nelson’s resolution would be. On a call preaching the values of the Con Con, Greene stated that “the best chance we’d have of doing this is the first time. After that, there will be more resistance from the other states. So it’s imperative that we take as big of a bite of the apple as possible the first time around, rather than just taking nibbles with individual amendments.”
Greene’s words speak volumes.
Though power originates from the people through the states, and though some may feel that the federal government has gone beyond its original bounds, there are systems currently in place to modify the system without an outright reset. The proposed resolution and its logical outcome from Nelson is a brash and dangerous overreaction to hurt feelings over particular federal decisions. This childish temper tantrum is unacceptable and the resolution should be soundly defeated.
To contact Representative Nelson, Click Here or call 801-971-2172
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