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.
- Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
- Require Congress to balance its budget.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
- 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.
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
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.