In this 3 minute speech given at CPAC 2013, Constitutional Policy Director Nick Dranias explains why it is time for States to lead. 49 states have a balanced budget requirement or debt limit. They are far from perfect, but they keep most States out of the situation faced by the federal government—which borrows nearly 50 cents of every dollar spent. It is time we learn from the States. Based on what debt limits have worked best in the States over 150 years of trial and error, Compact for America advances a powerful Balanced Budget Amendment that will finally bring sanity to the federal government's finances. An interstate compact provides the vehicle to advance the BBA because it transforms the otherwise cumbersome state-initiated amendment process under Article V of the United States Constitution into a “turn-key” operation.
Model Legislation:Compact for America consolidates everything in the Article V process into just two overarching pieces of legislation — one congressional resolution and one interstate compact joined by thirty-eight states. The model legislation below furnishes the nuts and bolts of this crucial reform vehicle.
Click above to review the text of the proposed BBA. This is for easy reference only; the proposed BBA is already included in the model legislation below. The proposed BBA would define a balanced budget in common sense terms: cash-flow-out must match cash-flow-in. By definition, deficit spending would be out of balance and would be limited by a constitutionally-imposed debt limit. That debt limit would not be in the hands of Washington alone; it could be increased, but only with the approval of a majority of state legislatures. The amendment avoids a game of chicken over debt limit increases by requiring spending impoundments when borrowing reaches 98 percent of the debt limit. Finally, the amendment would quell fears of across-the-board tax increases by requiring any new income or sales tax to secure two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress, excepting measures that close loopholes or completely replace the income tax with an end-user sales tax.
Click above for the model interstate compact legislation that is the reform vehicle for the proposed BBA. It should be sponsored and introduced by state legislators. The compact allows the states to agree in advance to everything they control in the Article V process — from the text of the proposed amendment, to the application to Congress, to delegate appointments and instructions, to the selection of the convention location and rules, to the ultimate legislative ratification of the proposed BBA. Not only that, but as soon as two states join the Compact, a commission is formed to expand its membership and advance the BBA it carries. Although the first “launch” of the Compact for America will carry a BBA, the compact vehicle is designed to be modular and can be modified to advance any number of specific constitutional amendments.
Click above for the model congressional resolution that consents to the Compact for America and sets in motion the corresponding Article V amendment process. It should be sponsored and introduced by members of Congress. It is a “concurrent” resolution because it does not require Presidential approval. It is an “omnibus” resolution because it contains several legislative parts in a single act that completely fulfills Congress’ role in the state-initiated Article V process—from the consent to the compact, to the call for the convention, to the ultimate ratification referral of the proposed BBA.
This presentation briefly explains the national debt problem facing the nation and why Compact for America is a uniquely effective solution to that problem.
Intellectual AmmunitionThe links below lead to fact sheets that quickly and conveniently explain the merits of Compact for America for legislators, citizens, and members of the media.
How Compact for America’s “Article V 2.0” turn-key approach works in one page.
What makes Compact for America’s proposed BBA the solution to our national debt problem in two pages
How Compact For America's Sixteen Safeguards Safely Regulate The Origination of a Balanced Budget Amendment
Why there is no plausible way that an Article V convention organized by the Compact for America would deviate from its agenda and retain political legitimacy in two pages.
The case for joining the Compact for America initiative in one page.
In a speech given before the Philadelphia Society, Dranias explains why a big, plausible reform idea like Compact for America is just the thing needed to engage young people in the fight to restore federalism.
The Goldwater Institute's Nick Dranias at Temple University School of Law
This presentation comprehensively explains why the Compact for America is the best Article V vehicle to reform Washington from the states in partnership with our congressional champions.
States Can Fix the National Debt: Reforming Washington With the Compact for America Balanced Budget Amendment, Goldwater Institute Policy Report No. 257 (April 23, 2013)
Click above for a scholarly analysis showing that Compact for America’s “Article V 2.0” turn-key approach to advancing a Balanced Budget Amendment is safe, effective and fully constitutional.
Click above for a scholarly analysis of the law governing interstate compacts.
Use It or Lose It: Why States Should Not Hesitate to Wield their Article V Powers (Library of Law and Liberty January 2, 2012)
Click above for a thought experiment illustrating how states joining an interstate compact to use their amendment power under Article V would change Washington’s behavior.
Fulfilling the Promise of Article V with an Interstate Compact (National Constitution Center, Dec. 6, 2013)
This opinion piece explains why Compact for America busts the two myths that have hobbled the Article V movement.
The Case for State Control
Goldwater Institute Article V Event
Goldwater Institute Article V Event 2
Perhaps the most convincing evidence that an Article V amendments convention can be a safe and effective way to control the national debt is by looking at original sources written by the Founders. Their intent for Article V is clear.
The plain language of Article V of the U.S. Constitution on the states' right to call an amendments convention is very distinct.
Proof that an Article V convention is not a general constitutional convention (Founders’ repeated rejection of open convention language for Article V during 1787 Constitutional Convention)
In James Madison's Federalist No. 43 he writes "It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other".
In Federalist No. 85, Alexander Hamilton writes "We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority".
In a letter from George Washington to John Armstrong, the future first president writes "It should be remembered that a constitutional door is open for such amendments as shall be thought necessary by nine States".
In James Madison's Report On The Virginia Resolutions, House of Delegates (pg 501-02), he writes "...or two thirds of themselves (states), if such had been their opinion, might, by an application to Congress, have obtained a convention for the same object":
James Madison's letter on Nullification also made reference to the Article V amendment process when he writes "the final resort within the purview of the Constitution, lies in an amendment of the Constitution, according to a process applicable by the states":