Former US Republican Senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum was present at the Montana Capitol on Wednesday for a proposal to convene a national convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution.
Senate Joint Resolution 2 targets federal spending and regulations and would make Montana the youngest Republican-leaning state to support the state-led Article V path to amending the Constitution, often referred to as the “Convention of States.”
“They have been given powers under Article V of the Constitution to control the federal government,” Santorum told the Senate Committee on Economy, Labor and Economic Development. “…And if you don’t use it and this country fails, that’s on you.”
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To convene a convention to propose constitutional changes would require two-thirds or 34 states to do the same. Three-fourths of the states would have to ratify any proposed changes resulting from this process.
The resolution, sponsored by Senator Tom McGillvray, R-Billings, aims to call a convention specifically to propose constitutional amendments that would require Congress to balance its budget, enact term limits for federal representatives, and “restrict federal power and jurisdiction.” restrict federal government.”
“Members, I’m going to be a little tough on Congress today,” McGillvray told the committee, offering some levity that would escalate into a three-hour hearing on the bill. It was an understatement.
“They are destroying the economic foundations of America, Congress has seized imperial powers and they encourage and support the destruction of this great nation,” he added minutes later.
No such congress has been convened since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and all 27 amendments added later are from Congress.
Critics of the proposal, including members of the right-wing John Birch Society, said there was no way to ensure that such a convention would be limited only to the goals outlined in relevant states’ resolutions. Instead, delegates or Congress, once convened, could broaden the scope of the convention, they say, to the point of rewriting the entire document.
“Congress takes over and convenes Congress, not the states,” said Ed Regan, chairman of the Broadwater County Republican Central Committee. “Congress would act within its legitimate authority and fully control the process once the hammer fell.”
Senator Willis Curdy, D-Missoula, also argued that if a convention of states were convened, there was no indication that the delegates to that convention would be divided by population.
In an exchange between the two, Santorum argued that previous minor conventions of state delegates, including two on apportioning water rights among several southwestern states, gave each state a vote. Curdy disagreed, noting that the states had never convened a convention to amend the constitution and that the 1787 constitutional convention had proportional representation.
Patrick Yawakie, testifying on behalf of the Blackfeet tribe, also argued against the resolution. He said it could jeopardize the treaties and agreements made between the federal government and the tribes in the US
So far, 19 state legislatures have passed identical resolutions to convene a state convention, according to conservative organization Citizens for Self-Governance, the main funder of the state convention’s efforts. Six other states have passed the resolution through one but not both chambers of their legislatures.
It is McGillvray’s second attempt to get the resolution passed by the legislature. In 2021, the Senate passed it by just two votes, with five Republican senators joining with all 19 Democrats to reject it. Democrats control three fewer Senate seats this session, and several of those GOP defectors are no longer in office.