Attention, constitutional conservatives 

My Sunday Examiner column begins by urging “constitutional conservatives” to keep in mind the structure of elections the Constitution sets up when deciding what to do on the debt limit issue. The Constitution requires them to win more than one election to reverse major national policies.

 

Here’s something else for constitutional conservatives to keep in mind. The Constitution gives the president no role whatever in amending the Constitution. Article V provides two methods for amending the Constitution: two-thirds of both houses of Congress can submit an amendment for ratification by three-quarters of the states, or two-thirds of the state legislatures can call a constitutional convention, whose products must also be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Nothing about the president there at all. He or she has no more power to amend the Constitution than any other citizen eligible to vote for members of Congress.

 

Nevertheless we hear demands from conservatives that presidential candidates, declared or potential, endorse constitutional amendments. The latest example is the demand by some conservatives that Texas Governor Rick Perry endorse the Family Marriage Amendment, which would prohibit same-sex marriage from being recognized by any state. And we hear repeated calls for presidential candidates to endorse a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

 

Leave aside, for a moment, the merits of these amendments (if anyone cares, I’m against both). Why does it matter whether a presidential candidate or for that matter a president favors a constitutional amendment? It’s a fair question to ask of candidates for or members of the House and Senate, who actually can vote on these things. But not of presidents or presidential candidates. This comports with actual practice—the constitutional amendments passed in my lifetime have been advanced primarily by members of Congress—and with the structure and substance of the Constitution. Presidential candidates’ views on constitutional amendments are irrelevant and should be treated as such.   

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Michael Barone

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