The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank that promotes free-market ideology and denounces climate-change “alarmism,” published an interview this week with Neal Schuerer, an advocate for a “convention of states” to propose a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The BBA effort is one of several active right-wing campaigns to convene a convention under Article V of the Constitution in order to limit the powers of the federal government. Under Article V, if 34 states submit calls for a convention to propose constitutional amendments on a given topic, Congress must call a convention of states.
Schuerer participated in the September “planning session” that balanced budget amendment advocates held in Arizona to demonstrate that the project can work and to assuage the fears that some conservatives share about a “runaway convention” that would undertake a more radical rewrite of the Constitution.
Proponents of a convention to promote a balanced budget amendment have been sparring in recent years with an even more aggressive effort that aims to dramatically limit the jurisdiction and power of the federal government, replacing our current constitutional order with one focused on states’ rights. That effort is backed by Religious Right leaders, including Alliance Defending Freedom’s Mike Farris, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, Christian-nation “historian” David Barton and anti-marriage-equality activist Robert George.
Schuerer himself calls the BBA a “first step”:
A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the first step in reining in an all-powerful, all-consuming central bureaucratic government that our founding document attempted to guard against.
We as citizens of the United States have the right and duty to bring about responsible reform to our founding document, reflecting the values of the people and the nature of free and independent states. We know what needs to be done. All we need is the courage to just do it.
Schuerer says his group Campaign Constitution is working with the Heartland Institute’s Center for Constitutional Reform to “bring all the competing interests together.” And he talks about how close his group’s effort is to reaching the threshold of 34 states:
The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force entered the 2017 state legislative year with great expectations, following the Trump election and the number of Republican governors and legislature majorities growing.
Twenty-eight states had active applications, with the goal of adding four to the number—Arizona, Idaho, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—bringing the number of active applications to 32.
Arizona and Wyoming approved the BBA application resolution. Maryland, New Mexico, and Nevada rescinded applications, making a net loss of one and bringing the number of active applications to 27. Recently, Wisconsin approved the BBA application, returning the total to 28.
Moving into 2018, there is very little margin. Idaho, Kentucky, and South Carolina are a must, bringing us to 31 active applications.
Montana will likely join in when it gets that close, to 32. Minnesota and Virginia are tough calls because of internal political disagreements on the issue of an Article V amendment convention. Washington state and Maine are anyone’s guess.
That brings the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force and the national Article V movement to 32 states by the end of 2018.
At last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Heartland celebrated the launch of its “Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center” with a poster honoring the late “fearless defender of freedom and enemy of biased, lying mainstream media.”