Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I’m sure you know, Senator Long, that prior to the election of Ronald Wilson Reagan, there was another gentleman who had a very similar effort over a balanced budget amendment Article V Amendment Convention. They were very close to getting a convention called until the election of Reagan. Reagan basically promised those gentlemen: Look, we’re going to deal with this budget deficit. Of course, in the early ‘80s you had Gramm-Rudman and Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, I think, a couple efforts. We know how it turned out. In any event, in the late 1970s, there was moment building up for this. I think there’s even more momentum building up for this today. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I can’t wait to hear a little bit about your history in this and about what it is that you and your colleagues will attempt to do tomorrow. How are you, sir?
Senator David Long: I’m fine, Mike, how are you?
Mike: I am very, very well, and very excited to hear all about, or what you’re willing to divulge, of what your conference is going to try and accomplish tomorrow at Mount Vernon.
Senator Long: Well, there’s a number of state legislators from around the country that are going to gather tomorrow from 34 states, 100 of us. It’s an informal gathering, which we hope will lead to a much more formal gathering soon. Essentially some of us have found each other. There are about five of us that have sort of driven toward Mount Vernon. Chris Kapenga, who’s a legislative state rep from Wisconsin, Matt Huffman, a state representative from Ohio, Gary Banz, a state rep from Oklahoma, and Senator Caryn Tyson from Kansas, along with a number of other legislators from around the country have put this together. Essentially we’re going to gather in Mount Vernon to talk about how you would structure a convention.
As you know, in the Constitution there is no blueprint. There’s historical blueprint for what the founders based the concept of a state-driven convention. There is no specific blueprint for how to do it in the Constitution. We’ll be gathering tomorrow in the morning at Mount Vernon to discuss the beginnings of how you would put this together, leading ultimately, we hope, toward what would be a convention of the states, which is down the road a bit. We all feel we have to begin the process of building the bones of this thing in such a way that it not only has credibility, but it has organization and the structure required to do a couple things, most importantly to make sure the states get in complete control of this without any federal intrusion into it. It’s very important that no one will be able to say they won’t have any concept of what they’re doing and the idea of a runaway convention could occur. A lot of that is foremost of our concerns, to make sure that wouldn’t happen. Tomorrow starts the process.
Mike: You are well aware, I know you have to be, of Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum and John Birch Society, who are the principal opponents of this. I’m sure you know, Senator Long, that prior to the election of Ronald Wilson Reagan, there was another gentleman to you who had a very similar effort over a balanced budget amendment. They were very close to getting a convention called until the election of Reagan. Reagan basically promised those gentlemen: Look, we’re going to deal with this budget deficit. Of course, in the early ‘80s you had Gramm-Rudman and Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, I think, a couple efforts. We know how it turned out. In any event, in the late 1970s, there was moment building up for this. I think there’s even more momentum building up for this today. Have you had any contact with, has anyone from either the Eagle Forum or the John Birches tried to contact you? If so, how did that conversation go?
Senator Long: Good question. I’ll tell you, interestingly enough, we dealt with this issue of a runaway convention in Indiana this year. I’ll be talking about that a big tomorrow with some of the other legislators. That complaint comes from the fact that, because there’s nothing in the Constitution that says how you do this, the fear of the runaway convention is there. They claim there’s no way you could ever control it. Rather than wring our hands and say: What can we do? There’s nothing that can be done about this mountain of debt that’s building in the federal government that threatens our future, we thought: How would you go about making sure that’s not the case? We passed two laws in Indiana this year. The first is how you select your delegate to a convention, and the second is, most importantly, how you control a delegate. We essentially said, first and foremost, you cannot be a federal employee or a federal legislator. Nobody from Congress is going to be a delegate. The second thing we said was you have to be a registered voter. And the most important of all, you take a specific oath to follow the directions specifically provided to you by the state legislature. That’s the first one in a nutshell. Those are the key parts.
The second part is how you control your delegate. They cannot vote on any amendment not specifically supported by the state legislature. It’s set out in stone basically prior to the convention taking place. Basically, you can get replaced if you do deviate from your charge. There is a panel of experts we have appointed to which the delegate can turn if they’re concerned they might be deviating from the state legislature’s specific charge to them. If you do deviate from that, not only are you replaced as a delegate immediately, but you’re also guilty of a felony.
We essentially said, first and foremost, you cannot be a federal employee or a federal legislator. Nobody from Congress is going to be a delegate. The second thing we said was you have to be a registered voter. And the most important of all, you take a specific oath to follow the directions specifically provided to you by the state legislature.
Senator Long: It’s very strong stuff, but we thought it had to be that strong to basically push back against those that say you can never do this for fear of a runaway convention. We think that these two laws or something very similar to it must be passed by all the states in advance of the convention in order to ensure that the delegates can remain under control and they will only be dealing with specific issues they have been told and limited to by the state legislature. I think it will work. I think it defeats the argument that you can’t put together a convention like this without it getting out of control. If the other states that are involved in the convention pass similar laws, I think we’ve got something here that defeats the argument of the Eagle Forum.
Mike: David Long from the State of Indiana is on the Dude Maker Hotline. Mr. Long is a senator. He is the president of the Indiana State Senate. As you heard, he’s meeting in Mount Vernon tomorrow with representatives from 34 different states to discuss forming an Article V convention. As Professor Randy Barnett pointed in our symposium, one of the ways to get around some of the people’s trepidation about it, Senator Long, is to say, first of all, it’s not a con-con. It’s an amendment convention. We’re not going in to write a new document. We’re going there to propose amendment. Then reinforce that by saying — this is an argument, by the bye, that came up in the first Federal Convention, the one that the Birchers aptly point to as the runaway, the one that happened in Philadelphia. Those men had commissions as well.
A delegate from New Hampshire, John Langdon, stood up in the early days of the convention and said: Look, I’ve got a commission in my hand, Mr. Madison. This says that I can only do amendments to the Articles of Confederation. At that point, James Wilson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, stood up and said: Look, we can propose whatever we want. You’re not violating your commission if you do that. Our states don’t have to ratify it. The convention is not limited in what it can propose inasmuch as the states don’t have to ratify. One of the things that I see as being key to your efforts, again, is education. People have to know we’re talking about amendments. Each one, last I checked, has to be ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures to become binding upon all 50 of the states, correct?
Senator Long: That’s right. Well, 38 have to pass it. You’re right, that’s a long, hard process and importantly it should be. That’s sort of the failsafe behind all this in case everything else got out of control. It’s not going to happen. You’re going to put delegates who are trustworthy people, who understand an oath is an oath. Nobody is going to send somebody in there who cares about this process to allow them to run wild. It’s just not going to happen. Even then, 38 states have to pass this after whatever comes out of the convention is proposed. That’s the one tough climb. There’s no question this is not something that’s just going to happen overnight. It can happen.
I think if it’s focused on fiscal issues and really looking at the unbelievable problems we’re facing in this country because of the profligate spending that’s going on in Washington, if we focus on that with amendments dealing specifically with that, you can argue this as almost a nonpartisan issue. It’s a states’ rights issue. Every state has to pass a budget and has to pass a balanced budget. The federal government doesn’t. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, everyone grouses about it. I’ve heard plenty of Democrat leaders say it, too. They’re dismayed by the federal government. They may have differences of opinion on solutions to our problems in the world. A bottom line world exists in every state and it doesn’t in the federal government. That’s why we have the problems we do right now. Plus, they’re not accountable. The Article V convention will place accountability back into it if we achieve what we hope we can. Focusing on fiscal issues here is most important and I think what drives most of the people gathering tomorrow.
End Mike Church Show Transcript