This commentary originally appeared in The Hill on May 11, 2017.
Last year, tensions ran high and opinions were strong surrounding the presidential election. Both political parties called for unity in their own party, telling their members this was the most important election of our lifetime and that the results would change the course of history. They called on Americans to vote for their nominee with the battle cry of not letting the other side win.
This isn’t the way our system is supposed to work. Hope for reform should not hinge on the results of a single election, or be concentrated in those we send to Washington.
As James Madison once said, “we shall never find two thirds of Congress voting or proposing anything which shall derogate from their own authority and importance.” Article V of the Constitution provides a way for states to band together and bypass Congress to enact structural reform through amendments to the Constitution. This process is known as a convention of states.
This past week, Texas became the eleventh state to pass uniform language applying to Congress for such a convention. This convention of states would be limited to amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office of federal officials and members of Congress
It’s time for the states and the American people to stand up and work to bring governing decisions back to the state and local levels, where they belong. We must stop willingly compromising and accepting — even promoting — the notion that who we select as president every four years is the sole make-or-break decision for the future of the country.
Instead of using the constitutional tools we have to correct the course of our government, we’ve abandoned our values and principles, afraid of what will happen if the other side seizes control in Washington. We have an amazing system, but it requires each branch to do its part, and we haven’t been doing ours.
Americans of all political leanings have fallen into the trap of believing that our Republic will fail unless we elect a particular candidate of a particular political party. Last fall, it became clear that we reached the point of voting for a member of the executive branch, in large part to impact the makeup of the judicial branch, because we don’t trust the legislative branch to do its job.
The greatness of our constitutional republic is contained in its vast number of checks and balances.
When Congress is not doing its job or not keeping its promises, like repealing Obamacare, or when the Supreme Court has overstepped its bounds, like unilaterally amending the Constitution through judicial decisions, the states have the ability to push back and return the federal government to its rightful place and rightful size. The founders purposefully designed a system that prevents any one branch, or even any majority, from having too much power.
The passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2 by the Texas Legislature was a message to Congress and the rest of the country that it is time to return to the founding principles of liberty and freedom, and to restrain the power and control that is currently concentrated in Washington D.C.
As we move forward as a nation, we have a decision to make. We must decide if we, as states and as people, are going to forsake our responsibility to act as a check and balance to our representative government, or if we have finally reached the tipping point where we’re willing to stand up and reject the notion that those we send to Washington control our destiny
Texas has spoken, and we encourage other states to join with us in saying that we are not going to settle for the status quo. After all, what we have is a republic … if we can keep it.