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What's Our Strategy?

The first point of the Convention of States strategy is to:

[C]all a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

The idea of a single-subject convention is critical to our strategy and separates us from many of the single-amendment convention organizations out there.

Two types of conventions can be called under Article V: plenipotentiary conventions and limited conventions.

At a plenipotentiary convention, delegates can discuss and propose any amendments they deem appropriate. They are not limited to a particular amendment or a particular subject, though under the text of Article V, such a convention is still limited to merely proposing amendments. Even so, we don’t support such a convention, nor do we know of any organization that does.

At a limited convention, on the other hand, the delegates are limited to pre-determined amendments or subjects. For example, if the states agree (through their applications) to discuss a balanced budget amendment, the delegates at a Convention of States are only authorized to discuss and propose an amendment that requires a balanced federal budget. (For background on why an Article V Amending Convention can be limited, see this article by Prof. Rob Natelson, section IX).

Furthermore, if the states agree to discuss amendments that limit the size and jurisdiction of the federal government, the delegates may only discuss and propose amendments that fall under that category. We wish to call this type of convention, and there are three reasons we believe such a convention would most effectively curb the abuses of Washington, D.C.

First, a single-amendment application restricts the deliberative freedom of the convention. The Founders intended conventions to be deliberative bodies that were more than just rubber stamps for the states. In fact, single-amendment conventions may be unconstitutional because they undermine the deliberative purpose of the convention. A single-subject convention, on the other hand, allows the convention delegates some freedom to consider creative and intelligent solutions, while still keeping them within clearly defined limits. Moreover, we know single-subject convention are constitutional because the Founders held these types of conventions all the time.

Second, a single-subject convention could consider a complete package of amendments to address the entire issue of federal overreach. The problem in the federal government is not just Congress, or the President, or the Supreme Court. All three are at fault, so a convention should have authority to propose restraints on all three. A single-amendment convention cannot do this. We need a solution as big as the problem.

Third, a single-subject convention allows for greater unity among like-minded people. Getting 34 states to agree on a convention is hard work. The balanced budget folks have been working on a balanced budget convention for several decades without winning over 34 states. To get over the 34 state hump, we need all the friends of limited government to work together. We need people who support a balanced budget and people who support term limits. We need people who support taxing limitations and spending restraints. We need everyone together under one tent. Our single-subject application is the only way to get all these groups together and pushing for a common goal.

This is exactly what the Founders envisioned when they put a Convention of States in the Constitution: a group of state leaders from around the country coming together to resist federal tyranny. We can’t claim credit for the Convention of States application; it is nothing new. We are just following the guidance and vision of the Founders, whose God-given wisdom has brought us thus far.