Pa. Senate panel approves bill that would call for U.S. Constitutional convention

‘History has a tendency of repeating itself. Consolidation of government into a central authority is a huge issue. And my thought is if not for such a time as this, then when?’ Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, said during a November roundtable

By: - February 8, 2022 8:48 am

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, speaks during a Nov. 8, 2021, roundtable with representatives from the Convention of States, Gun Owners of America, and Firearms Owners Against Crime. (Screenshot)

Pennsylvania could become the latest state to call for a convention of states for proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution, inching closer to the 34-state threshold needed to trigger the meeting.

In a party-line vote on Monday, the Republican-controlled Senate State Government Committee advanced a resolution authored by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, that calls for a convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to consider placing limitations on the federal government’s authority.

The committee vote came three months after GOP lawmakers met with supporters, who say the proposed convention would restrain the federal government, and challengers, who fear a runaway convention, for a roundtable on the matter. 

In an April memo to colleagues seeking support for the resolution, Dush said a convention “will create the needed opportunity for states to hold the federal government accountable to the Constitution and the voices of the people.”

“History has a tendency of repeating itself,” Dush said during a Nov. 8 meeting with representatives from the Convention of States, Gun Owners of America, and Firearms Owners Against Crime. “Consolidation of government into a central authority is a huge issue. And my thought is if not for such a time as this, then when?”

The Capital-Star obtained a recording of the roundtable, also attended by Sens. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Doug Mastriano, R-Jefferson, through a Right-to-Know Law request. All four lawmakers sit on the 11-member State Government Committee and voted to send Dush’s legislation to the Senate for consideration.

The Convention of States Project has ties to the Tea Party movement and endorsements from conservative politicians and media personalities across the country. The group has characterized potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution as placing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting its power and jurisdiction, and imposing term limits on Congress and the judiciary.

Seventeen states, primarily in the south where the GOP holds the majority, have called for a convention, meeting the halfway point to call the conclave.

Convention of States Project President Mark Meckler, who attended the November meeting in Harrisburg, argued that a convention could limit what he called an “overreaching” U.S. Supreme Court, Congress, and presidency.

“If not this, then when? Washington, D.C., is controlled by Marxists. We literally — I never thought I would say this — there are Marxists sitting in the White House today, planning the destruction of this nation,” Meckler told the GOP panel, saying challengers’ arguments against a convention are rooted in fear. “We’re scared. We’re afraid that something will happen. That’s not our heritage.”

Opponents to a convention of states, including Firearms Owners Against Crime President Kim Stolfer, have expressed concerns about a runaway convention with unprecedented changes to the U.S. Constitution.

“If we can’t get a federal government that’s going to control itself, as it doesn’t now, for whether balancing the budget or respecting rights without evisceration, then how is a new constitution or any changes made in anything coming out of what purports to be a constitutional convention?” Stolfer said.

Stolfer, who described the possibility of a runaway convention as “playing Russian roulette with five rounds in a six-round cylinder,” added that the “problem” in the United States is not with its founding document but with accountability. He also alleged that advocates for a convention of states are “wordsmithing” Article V of the U.S. Constitution to further their agenda.

But Dush argued that the Founding Fathers were wordsmiths themselves, who were “meticulous” in drafting the U.S. Constitution. To say they did not understand sovereignty or what they were writing is an “insult,” he added.

Every Democrat on the Senate State Government Committee opposed the resolution, with Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, expressing “great reservations” about the challenges that could result from a convention and “potentially eroding many of our fundamental rights.”

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