Texas governor Greg Abbott wants to put a bunch of conservative policies in the Constitution

Texas governor Greg Abbott released a 90-page proposal today calling for states to come together and pass a set of nine amendments to the US Constitution that, taken together, would force the country to adopt a slew of conservative economic and social policies.

Here are the amendments:

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget.
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
  7. 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.
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
Greg Abbott, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Greg Abbott, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Most of these proposed amendments can be traced back to conservative policy proposals that have been making the rounds in venues ranging from think tanks to talk radio shows over the last decade or so. For example, the second proposal — for a Balanced Budget Amendment — is proposed every year in Congress, and is defeated every year because a Balanced Budget Amendment is an awful idea. The third and fourth proposed amendments, taken together, strongly resemble the REINS Act, a bill that would require congressional approval of nearly all federal regulations. The sixth proposal seems to take direct aim at marriage equality, which Supreme Court granted in a 6-3 ruling that overturned state-level bans that had been, in many cases, added to state constitutions via citizen referenda.

A few of the other amendments seem either somewhat redundant (the Tenth Amendment already covers all of the ground that Abbott’s seventh item does) or vague to the point of meaninglessness (what does it mean for a federal official to “overstep their bounds”?).

Abbott’s call for a convention in order to enact all of these changes comes off as a noble, if quixotic, homage to the Founders — his proposals are entitled the “Texas Plan” in reference to the Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan and Connecticut Plan that formed the basis for our current Constitution. However, all of these conservative ideals are well-within reach without such a convention. You could check off most of these agenda items — especially with respect to the federal government’s authority to regulate economic activity and state-level social policy — with one or two appointments to the Supreme Court.

So sure, we can all point and laugh at Greg Abbott for being wildly idealistic and silly. But at the end of the day, this is what conservatives are bringing to the table by way of long-term goals. And they’re uncomfortably close to making at least a few of them a reality.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Larry Linn

    What if the “Constitutional Convention” passes proposed amendments that Abbott does not agree with?

  • Randy Riddle

    It’s important to note that this movement isn’t just some Texas thing – some Teabagger-controlled state legislatures, like North Carolina, have voted on resolutions calling for a Constitutional convention with lists of demands like this to back them up.

    That something like this – a proposal to basically dissolve the United States and eliminate the Federal government – has any traction at all, shows how extremist the GOP has become. Combine it with Trump’s racist fascist talk and Cruz’s vision of a theocracy and you’ve got a sickening vision of a disastrous future from one of our two major political parties.

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  • Demosthenes

    It appears he is disappointed with the outcome of the Civil War.

  • dcinsider

    Cray-cray.

  • Gennybrelyea4


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  • mark_in_toronto

    Damn spell-checker . . .

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Texas is a fiscal drain on the U.S.A., and it would be the same for Mexico. Texas would be on its own.

  • I believe that you meant “secede,” not “succeed.” ;)

  • mark_in_toronto

    Sounds like he wants Texas to succeed.
    Please do . . . Mexico could use the revenue.

  • MichaelS

    “Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.”
    Hmmm… like, for example, slavery?…

  • dieter heymann

    A quip here in Houston among my friends is that Abbott actually wanted ten amendments but he forgot what the tenth was. Another (mine): only one more then Abbott has a Moses-syndrome and will ask a craftsman to inscribe them in a stone tablet with which he will descend the steps of the state Capitol.

  • Rick B

    These proposals are exactly like those being pushed by the American Southern Slave states during the writing of the U.S. Constitution. The colonies had tried the Articles of Confederation because each east coast colony was too small to face the British Navy and Military on its own without a long-term professionally trained military of decent size. They had to have a centrally controlled and tax-supported long term professional military which could be quickly deployed to face a British landing force anywhere along the east coast. No militia could survive in that kind of military environment. (The British and French Empires were both created by taking over less economically developed and small states that had no protectors.)

    The problem was that the founding fathers were mostly slave state plantation aristocrats who were totally unwilling to submit to the political demands of the city mobs the way the French Aristocrats ultimately were after the French Revolution. The U.S. Constitution reflects these two conflicting demands. A central military command was required for survival, but that military commander had to be sharply restricted in the degree of control he was permitted to exercise within the various states. This led to the creation of Vetocracies.

    What is happening is that the power centers (usually corporations and very wealthy families) in each state recognize that the extent to which the federal government rationalizes national economic and social regulation, the local and state powers lose their power. They resist national regulation, even when it would improve life for Americans. The improvement in life (National health care) means a loss of local power by the state level aristocrats, most of whom inherited their power and wealth.

    The conservative movement consists of these state and local power centers (who, as a group, represent small town professionals like lawyers, Doctors, Dentists, Contractors, large landowners, etc.)

    Citizen’s United represents a shift of power from individuals organized into nationally influential democratic organizations to the local wealthy aristocrats and landowners.

    Look at those proposals by Abbot and recognize how each shifts power back to the aristocrats.

  • pat tolle

    Please don’t forget steve Fromholtz , Stevie Ray Vaughn, or Jim Hightower.

  • Mistywmiller1


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  • Of course. Especially considering it’s been the Republicans who blew the biggest holes in the budget through their fetish of “tax cuts + jacked military spending,” starting with Reagan.

    But they don’t want to behave responsibly.

  • I know, Kyle, and I try to avoid painting all of y’all with the same brush because it must be exceedingly frustrating to live in the same state as voters who think Dubya, Governor Goodhair, Governor Wingnutty Abbott, Ted Cruz, and Louie Gohmert deserve to be elected to anything.

    It’s hard though, given you haven’t had a sane governor since Richards and your current leaders keep on with the secessionist, insurrectionist, and “Let’s fuck with the Constitution” talk.

    I know it’s not your fault. And it’s just that it’s worse and more visible there, but it’s obvious this problem is nationwide, not just Texas and not just the South.

  • Waiting until there was a Democrat in the White House and a significant likelihood of there being another in January 2017 because the GOPers can’t bring themselves to run anybody but radical wingnut lunatics.

    When THEY are in charge, any suggestion there be less than an autocratic Executive is considered unpatriotic heresy. But only as long as that President is a Republican.

  • The_Fixer

    It’s like that in every state that has been overrun with right-wing nutjobs. I live in Wisconsin and have heard many people lament that the state has elected Walker as its governor, roundly calling everyone in the state stupid. Thing is, not everyone here is. Yes, there are a lot of slow learners here, but a lot of us would gladly leave – if we could.

    I think of the many talented musicians from Texas, and the many notable figures we’ve seen (like Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, To name just two) from Texas, and it’s clear that you can’t write off the whole state.

    That’s what Mississippi is for :)

  • I wonder how he’d feel about the McDonald v. Chicago case or Citizens United? would he want super majorities then? How about 7 to decide elections like in 2000?

  • Thank you for saying this. I live in Texas and I am a liberal. Not all of us are nutjobs. I personally get tired of the “let them go” attitude. They’d be condemning lgbt people to death because you know they’d make that in Iran’s image.

  • 2karmanot

    Texas is all crap and no cattle

  • WarrenHart

    People like Greg Abbott really hate the U.S.A. the way it exists today. They say they’re patriotic and everything but that patriotism is for some other system they wished existed here.

  • therling

    Where was this guy when the Bush Administration was pushing the “Unitary Executive Theory?”

  • Ol’ Hippy

    And just when you thought things were starting to look better we get these assholes from Texas wanting to enforce their version of “sharia” law. Seriously, this is a step back to the dark ages of the 19th century. A place before women could vote, civil rights, Roe v. Wade, you know, the dark ages. There are serious efforts around this nation to undermine all we have fought for over the last 150 years. This is just one more, of a long list of items, of why it’s crucial to learn about state, local, and national candidates, and go VOTE this fall, your freedom demands it.

  • Tarapcarter4


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  • Every Teavangelical I know is either on medicare/social security or works for a government contractor (NASA often). They deserve what they’ve been asking for. Without government spending they’d be fucked.

  • It is. It really is. I’m not sure if he’s stupid or just pandering to those who are, but the results are the same.

  • It’s bullshit for Republicans to talk about balanced budgets when they clearly have no interest in balancing budgets when they are in the majority. it’s just a talking point they know some Teabaggers like to hear (but would hate in practice which doesn’t matter because it’s never going to pass anyway). If they want to balance budgets, then they should balance them. The idea that they can’t without a constitutional amendment is absurd.

  • Yes, please. I’m trying to get out but need to finish grad school (almost done) and find a job someplace that’s not just as bad but where I can afford to live.

  • The_Fixer

    Complete with a wall!

  • emjayay

    Maybe Austin could be like West Berlin used to be.

  • The_Fixer

    Oh, they don’t want to secede, really. For the very reason you point out – suckling at the government teat. Who would pay for the various misadventures of Texas? Who would pay for the droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and whatever else their benevolent God throws at them?

    Personally, I think if Texans want to be so Texany, maybe they should secede. If Texas and Florida were to secede, the national stress level would be cut by 50% at least!

    But like I said before, allow those who wish to escape to do so. There are some sane and talented people in Texas.

  • The_Fixer

    I really think he’s a dimbulb, pure and simple. He obviously has not done his homework (nor has anybody done it for him, I might add), and what is ‘new’ is really in service to special interests – the already powerful.

    I don’t know if he so much wants the country to collapse as he doesn’t realize that what he’s proposing will do that. A dimbulb usually doesn’t think far ahead, and he doesn’t do that.

    I pity the liberal folks in Texas. It must be hell for them.

  • The_Fixer

    But allow all of the great musicians, artists, and sane general citizenry to escape, first. In spite of the majority, there are some sane Texans trapped there.

  • crazymonkeylady

    I think he wants to run Texas as his own Country. Why not secede? Just run your own insane little country with your own Constitution and your own money. No more sucking at the Government teat. Pay for everything yourself. Liberty from Regulation! Freedom from American Law! Religious Establishment as Real Christian Nation! Please, leave soon.

  • crazymonkeylady

    Dear Texas, The real thing you want is for Texas to secede. Leave the States and become your own insane country. We will build a wall around you. We are well rid of all y’all.

  • Don Chandler

    “Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.”–that would be the Scalia Plan.
    He’s on the losing end of many of these cases…like DOMA being overturned and Lawrence V Texas…if only just one justice could overrule all the justices…Scalia wet dream.

  • Doug105

    If you let them into office you may wish you were there.

  • Doug105

    This is why you vote for the other party, The one that has a real chance of winning. It’s well past the point of lesser evil and every Rethug that gets into office only makes it worse.

  • Sally

    He ran out into that storm, then sued for a whole wad of money when he got injured. THEN he changed the law so no one else could sue in the same manner. He’s as slimy as Cruz.

  • Sally

    Well, they’ll have to crawl over Trump’s huge fence first!

  • Zorba

    ‘Douchenozzle” is a good word, but I sort of prefer daughter Zorba’s “douche canoe.” ;-)

  • Zorba

    He does make former Texas governor Rick Perry look like a genius in comparison, and that’s really saying something.
    Texas, secede, and we will remove all military bases and all federal agencies (including NASA Houston) and all federal support whatsoever.
    And your citizens should have a passport and a visa to enter the actual United States of America.

  • nicho

    If this douchenozzle doesn’t like our form of government, there ARE other countries. I believe Somalia would meet his criteria.

  • The question I always want to ask in response to nonsense like this is, “How do you expect the United States of America to remain a viable world super-power when its government is gutted in authority and funding to the degree you propose?”

  • Ye gads, talk about bloody red meat for the uneducated GOPer masses.

    Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

    So, basically, the end of any kind of FEDERAL government. We’d be back to the Articles of Confederation, and we (or some of us) know how that turned out.

    Require Congress to balance its budget.

    Even though nearly every time Congress has created a significant deficit, it has been under Republican leadership and nearly always included huge increases in defense spending, even during peacetime. Any provisions for deficit spending during a war or emergency? No?

    Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.

    This is already the case. Administrative agencies can’t create federal law. But they can create regulations and guidelines to enforce existing laws which were passed by Congress. In fact, that’s the entire point of the Executive branch, otherwise laws have no meaning or enforcement at all.

    Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.

    Same thing. The Federal courts can (and sometimes do) preempt state law. As is THEIR duty. If an Executive branch agency overrides a state, it’s only with federal court backing.

    Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

    Something very much like this already exists. It’s called Constitutional Amendments!

    Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

    Big boost for ‘tyranny of the majority’ and a major undercutting of the 3rd supposedly co-equal branch of our government.

    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.

    Again, the end of federalism and the creation of a Disunited States of America.

    Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.

    This right already exists. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. But I thought the whole point of Abbot’s proposals were to gut the ability of the federal courts to decide ANYTHING.

    Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

    Now he’s just repeating himself. They can already do this. It’s called amending the Constitution.
    In short, Abbott’s proposals are sheer bunkum.

  • fry1laurie

    Conservatives, my ass.

  • emjayay

    I still think that besides being a Christofascist nutjob like his predecessor he’s also pissed about a tree making him nonfunctional below the waist. His kid is adopted.

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