When it comes to Texas' relationship with the Federal government, the word "rocky" comes to mind. And nobody embodies said rockiness better than Texas governor Greg Abbott, who recently made headlines after announcing that irrelevant of D.C.'s demands, Texas would refuse to accept any Syrian refugees.
This followed his announcement earlier this summer 2015 when fears over nebulous Federal intentions with operation "Jade Helm" were running high, that "to address concerns that Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure, and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the state guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15."
Prior to this, Abbott was again in the news back in June when he signed a bill into law that would allow Texas to build a gold and silver bullion depository, which would allow Texas to repatriate $1 billion worth of bullion from the New York Fed to the new facility once completed.
In short: the Federal government and the state of Texas have been on collision course of many months, one which culminated on Friday when Abbott called for a Constitutional Convention of states, spearheaded by Texas, and which would amend the U.S. Constitution to wrest power from a federal government "run amok."
To achieve that, Abbott proposed nine amendments to "restore the Rule of Law and return the Constitution to its intended purpose."
“If we are going to fight for, protect and hand on to the next generation, the freedom that [President] Reagan spoke of … then we have to take the lead to restore the rule of law in America,” Abbott said, cited by the Dallas News, during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation that drew raucous applause from the conservative audience. He said he will ask lawmakers to pass a bill authorizing Texas to join other states calling for a Convention of States.
According to the Hill, Abbott said that "the increasingly frequent departures from Constitutional principles are destroying the Rule of Law foundation on which this country was built,” said Abbott in a statement. We are succumbing to the caprice of man that our Founders fought to escape. The cure to these problems will not come from Washington D.C. Instead, the states must lead the way.”
Along with the speech, Abbott released a nearly 70-page plan – part American civics lesson, part anti-Obama diatribe – detailing nine proposed constitutional amendments that he said "would unravel the federal government’s decades-long power grab and restore authority over economic regulation and other matters to the states."
"The irony for our generation is that the threat to our Republic doesn’t come just from foreign enemies, it comes, in part, from our very own leaders," Abbott said in a speech that took aim at President Obama, Congress and the judicial branch.
Abbott's nine proposed amendments are:
- Prohibit congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state.
- Require Congress to balance its budget.
- Prohibit administrative agencies from creating federal law.
- Prohibit administrative agencies from pre-empting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law
- Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a federal law or regulation.
For those unfamiliar, a Constitutional Convention is one of two ways that the U.S. Constitution can be amended, and it’s described in Article V. One way is that Congress can propose amendments approved by two-thirds of the members of both chambers. The other method allows two-thirds of the state legislatures to call for a convention to propose amendments. Republicans backing the idea are confident that because they control state government in a majority of states, their ideas would prevail.
In both cases, the amendments become effective only if ratified by three-fourths of the states. Indicatively, of the 27 times the Constitution has been amended, none was generated by a constitutional convention.
Abbott is not the first to propose a convention: the idea has been gaining traction among some among conservative Republicans, comes just as the GOP presidential candidates begin to make forays into Texas ahead of the March primary election. The state, with 155 delegates up for grabs, will certainly be a key player in the party’s nominating process.
Earlier this week presidential contender Marco Rubio published a piece in USA Today endorsing the idea of a convention to amend the Constitution and restore limited government. In April, 27 active petitions had been filed with Congress seeking a convention to amend the constitution to require that Congress adopt a balanced budget.
Congress would be forced to act once 34 states joined the effort. So far, Cruz hasn’t endorsed the idea.
A convention, Abbott wrote, would force the federal government to “take the Constitution seriously again... The only true downside comes from doing nothing and allowing the federal government to continue ignoring the very document that created it,” Abbott wrote.
To be sure many conservatives agree with Abbott's posture that the only way to limit the powers of the Federal government is to resuscitate state power .
Of course, whereas Republicans are seeking to limit the role and power of government, Democrats demand just the opposite, and were quick to denounce Abbott’s plan Friday, saying the governor has misplaced priorities.
“America added 292,000 new jobs in December. But under Abbott, Texas fell to sixth in job creation, remains the uninsured capitol of the nation, wages and incomes remain far too low for hardworking families, our neighborhood schools are still underfunded, and college education is slipping out of reach,” Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Manny Garcia said in a statement. “Texas families deserve serious solutions, not Tea Party nonsense.”
What Manny Garcia did not add is that while oil was above $100, Texas was the state that had generated the most jobs under the Obama administration, and if it hadn't been for the Kerry-Saudi Arabia secret meetings which put into play the collapse in the price of oil, meant to cripple Russia but crushing US shale instead, Texas would continue to create record numbers of jobs.
However, since this is high politics, facts be damned, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas issued a statement with similar sentiment. “Governor Abbott, as Texans, we prefer the Framers’ plan. Don’t mess with the Constitution,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.
A small but vocal Republican minority has also opined against the idea of a constitutional convention: last year, House legislators filed measures calling for such a convention. Texas senator Craig Estes unleashed a screed against the proposal when it came before the Senate State Affairs Committee in May. He compared the idea to “a petulant teenager who’s lost a few basketball games and plans to burn down the gymnasium.”
“The constitution has served us well for over 200 years. The problem is not the constitution,” Estes said, adding that the solution is to elect more conservative lawmakers. “Slap a bumper sticker for Ted Cruz on your car and get after it and knock yourself out.”
Estes went on to promise a filibuster if the measure came to the Senate floor.
Whether Abbott's proposal will gain steam and ultimately succeed is unknown, but it is virtually certain that the more the Obama administration governs via executive orders and other means to bypass the Legislative and short circuit the US government, the more powerful the grass-roots response at the state level will be, until eventually there is enough anger at the dysfunctional U.S. government at the 34 required states to do precisely as the Texan wants... that, or Trump is voted into the Oval Office as a protest against everything that is broken with the current political status quo.