News & Politics

Jim DeMint: Convention of States Is the Only Way to Avoid 'Complete Economic Meltdown'

June 14, 2011, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., speaks to media on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

On Monday, former Senator Jim DeMint announced he would join the Convention of States Project, an organization pushing for the states to submit an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to rein in the federal government. DeMint joined his fellow former senator, Tom Coburn, in pushing the project.

“The only way to save our country from complete economic meltdown is for the states to exercise their constitutional right to restrain the federal government,” DeMint told PJ Media in an interview Tuesday. “I recognize, as my friend Tom Coburn does, that Congress will never stop spending and growing the government.”

DeMint lamented that “no matter who we elect, they cannot cut spending, because there’s so many constituents for every program, no matter how wasteful and ineffective those programs are.” This does not mean economic meltdown is imminent, but that Congress lacks the willpower to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, which the former Senator suggested would eventually lead to economic collapse.

But “the founders anticipated this moment where we have a runaway government,” DeMint insisted. “They gave the states the ability to rein in the federal government through Article V.”

The former senator insisted that this solution is clearly spelled out in the Constitution and has a great deal of promise when it comes to restraining the federal government. Article V of the U.S. Constitution presents the process for amending the document, and one of the ways to do so begins with a convention of the states.

In order for the convention to meet, two-thirds of the states (34 states) would have to call the convention, with a document laying out the subject matter on which amendments would be proposed. At the convention, each state would have one vote, no matter how many representatives they send.

The state legislatures would call the convention and elect representatives to attend it. If 26 states agree to any one amendment, that amendment would be sent to the states, and three-fourths of the states (38 states) would have to ratify an amendment for it to become law.

“Honestly, we have a runaway Congress, we have runaway courts, but there’s actually no chance in the world that we would have a runaway convention,” DeMint insisted. “There’s no chance that thirteen states won’t stand up to stop a crazy amendment.”

To those who might attack the convention of states as an attempt for Republicans to subvert the federal government, DeMint insisted that it would actually be the opposite. “In Washington, they decide what people should do and how they should live — what we’re looking at is who decides,” the former senator said.

DeMint argued that “this is something that California and South Carolina could agree on, because it’s not imposing anybody’s will on California.”

The senator laid out the three general goals of the Convention of States Project — the framework on which the convention would meet and from which amendments would be decided. The meeting would focus on “imposing fiscal restraint on Washington, reducing the federal government’s authority over states, and imposing term limits on federal officials,” such as congressmen, senators, and judges.

If the convention, called for these purposes, strayed from them, it would be challenged in federal court, the former senator explained.

DeMint referenced a simulated convention of states, conducted in September 2016, as an example of the effectiveness of such a project. The mock convention passed many strong proposals, including term limits on Congress, a limit on the increase in the public debt, redefining the Commerce Clause, and giving the states the power to abrogate any federal law, regulation, or executive order.

These may sound like conservative ideas, but they are more federalist than anything, DeMint argued. Under the proposed framework, “California can have a single-payer health care system if they want, it’s ore of a true federalism idea.”

He noted that the sponsor of the convention in the Ohio state legislature is a Democrat, and he predicted that “we’re going to see more liberals under a Republican administration, states like California, who start thinking, ‘We don’t want the federal government to impose their will on us.'”

DeMint praised a building return to federalism, with states joining together to limit the federal government under the Obama administration. He noted that states refused the Medicaid expansion, refused to set up Obamacare exchanges, and sued the administration over Obamacare and immigration.

“The atmosphere’s really right for people to say that this is our responsibility to do something and restrain the federal government,” he said.

The former senator noted that twelve states have already called for such a convention, and predicted that at least twenty more will consider it during the next legislative session. “In the next two or three years, I’m confident we’ll get to 34.”

Early last month, the Heritage Foundation removed Jim DeMint from his role as president. When asked about his decision to join the Convention of States Project, the former senator emphasized the continuity of his fight to further conservative principles in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve known for a while that the only way to change Washington was to go outside of Washington and engage the grassroots around solid conservative ideas,” DeMint told PJ Media. He said that grassroots engagement was his primary goal at the Senate Conservatives Fund, when he raised money for Tea Party candidates like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“At the state level, things like education choice and health care options — the states are where the action is,” DeMint said. Partially because of this, he insisted that the best promise to rein in Washington is through a convention of states.

Nevertheless, the former senator also mentioned a second forthcoming project — a new nonprofit in Washington, D.C. “to try to unify conservatives working in the House and the Senate.” The details of this new group will be released in recent weeks.

Even so, DeMint emphasized the promise of the Convention of States Project. “I’m concerned that the Congress and the courts have already run away with our rights,” he said. As for the convention, “there’s no risk to this if we do it, but we have everything to lose if we don’t.”

Why not give the convention a try?