Outgoing Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a tenacious budget hawk, says that he wants to lead an effort to organize a national convention to change the U.S. Constitution.
Citing ongoing gridlock in Washington, Coburn told The Hill in a recent interview that he hopes to convince the two-thirds of states required by Article V of the U.S. Constitution to support a Constitutional convention.
“I think [George] Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy. That’s why he put Article V in,” Coburn told the newspaper.
Coburn said he feels a convention is necessary to amend the law of the land in ways that members of Congress will not.
“I think we ought to have a balanced budget amendment, I think we ought to have term limits. I think we ought to put a chokehold on regulation and re-establish the powers of the Congress,” he said.
Coburn contends that amending the Constitution via Article V would create an opportunity to restore certain Congressional powers that have been usurped by the executive over the decades.
The Hill points out that the 17 amendments to the Constitution since the 1791 adoption of the Bill of Rights were made after the proposals won two-thirds support in Congress—an unlikely occurrence in today’s political environment—and were ratified by three-quarters of the states.
And some critics say Coburn’s plan is overkill, as Washington Post politics writer Phillip Bump notes:
There’s clearly a kill-a-fly-with-a-hand-grenade aspect to this. The 113th Congress that will be Coburn’s last has enacted 163 laws since January 2013 — which, while low, is still about six times the number of constitutional amendments. That’s because constitutional amendments were never intended to be a form of legislation; the Founding Fathers assumed Congress would do that to the public’s satisfaction, or the public would elect a new Congress. That thinking may have been flawed. Control of the Senate might switch after November. Control of the House will not — and nearly all of the House incumbents will return to Washington.
If the lawmaker were successful in his bid to foment a Constitutional convention, there would be potential for all manner of political confusion as Congress attempted to find its role in the process and arguments ensued over which issues could be up for debate and how they would be presented.