By JAMES ISAAC
Gregg County's Republican Party chairman on Thursday said he has reservations about U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert's call for a constitutional amendment convention, while his Democratic counterpart said the congressman's effort is merely an attempt to squash federal health care legislation. On Monday, Gohmert called upon at least 39 states to review Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution and organize a convention for one amendment — to put a check and balance on the federal government. Article 5 requires at least 34 states — two-thirds of the Union — to request a convention to amend the Constitution, he said. Article 1 of the Constitution obliged state legislatures to select senators for each state. The 17th Amendment, since 1913, has allowed voters in each state to select their senators. Gohmert said Monday on the House floor that the 17th Amendment usurped state's rights "because if any U.S. Senator ever came up here and voted such an unfunded mandate upon the state (referring to the health reform bill), he was going to quickly be recalled as has happened before." Gohmert said an amendment to restore a check and balance on the federal government would require only 38 states — three-fourths of the Union. "That one amendment would put a check and balance back on federal usurpation of rights reserved to the states and people under the 9th and 10th Amendments," Gohmert said in a prepared statement. "When drafted, the amendment would require ratification by only 38 states." Gregg County Democratic Party Chairwoman Juneau Embry agreed the Constitution does provide for the convening of a constitutional convention, but she said Gohmert wants to support an amendment undoing health care legislation. "Louie Gohmert wants to deny coverage to the sick, allow costs to skyrocket and maintain discrimination," Embry said. "Rep. Gohmert cannot pretend that he is doing it for the hard-working people of East Texas. Let's call it what it is: Louie Gohmert wants to take health care away from 32 million Americans." Keith Rothra, chairman of the Gregg County Republican Party, said he supports calling a constitutional convention if it is limited to one issue. The precedent to expand a convention's topics was set before the Constitution was ever introduced, he said. "That precedent is there, that they would not be limited to that alone," Rothra said. "I would be cautious, but I would support (calling a convention) if it could be limited to that one issue alone." Gohmert said legal efforts by "39 states" to block the health reform bill could take years before being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, Gohmert on Thursday joined other members of the congressional delegation on House radio and TV to reiterate their support for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of provisions in the health reform bill.
Text of Gohmert's speech - “We’ve seen for some time the federal government since 1913 usurping state’s rights, this federal government, this Congress, the House and Senate, with the complicity of both Republican and Democratic presidents, sending to the states unfunded mandates, demanding that they come up with millions and billions of dollars that they didn’t have, just out of the blue. We’ve now come up with one that many states believe it will bankrupt them. “How did we get here? Well, in 1913, the constitutionally sanctioned process of electing senators was changed by the 17th Amendment. That was put in the Constitution after great debate, and what it required was that the state legislatures, the states select, not the overall population of the state, but the state, the state legislatures would select the U.S. senators. “That was a check and balance on the federal government’s usurpation of state’s rights because if any U.S. Senator ever came up here and voted such an unfunded mandate upon the state, he was going to quickly be recalled as has happened before. But, the appeal, and I don’t know how I would have voted on the 17th Amendment because it sounds so good. 'You know, we ought to let all the people in the state elect our U.S. senator.’ And once that was done, once that amendment was passed, there was no further check on state’s rights, and the protections afforded in the 9th and 10th Amendment that reserved all power not specifically enumerated, as it says here in the 10th Amendment, 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by to the states are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.’ Both Republicans and Democrats have violated that concept, and what could the state do about it? “After 1913, they had no power to do anything about it. They didn’t have an army as big as the United States, and we didn’t want secession again. We didn’t want another civil war. It should be done legislatively and diplomatically and within legislative bodies however they were called, and within the framework of the U.S. Constitution. Well, the Constitution when it was drafted addressed that point, and it’s very clear. And perhaps it took a government to run away as with one state representative or governor said, 'The mother of all unfunded mandates.’ The states, there are 39 of them that have so far said, 'We’re not going to take this anymore. We’re gonna do something, whether it’s going to be legislative, litigation, whatever. We’re gonna stop this.’ “But the truth is it may take years to get through the courts, to the Supreme Court. It may take years. So here’s the solution. It was in the Constitution all along. It’s called Article V of the United State Constitution. Now, we know that Article V has been used many times by this first line, 'The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary ...” We know that’s been used many times. House and Senate agree, we need an amendment. So they call for the amendment to be produced, but something I haven’t been able to find has been done before, but it can be. It’s there. “But, here it is, '... Or on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states shall ... “ means Congress shall, Congress shall, there’s not any choice that Congress has, 'If two thirds of the states apply and say we want a convention,’ not a Constitutional Convention because this can be restricted by the Congress, but an amendment. One amendment would be all that is necessary to return a check and balance on the federal government, give the state what the 9th and 10th Amendment reserved to them. 'Two-thirds of the states make application, Congress shall call in a Convention for proposing amendments.’ Not rewriting the Constitution, and this is a procedural issue that the Supreme Court has always said, with regard to procedural issues, 'That’s political, it’s procedural. Congress, you do it however you want to. We’re not touching that. We’re not going to issue an opinion.’ That’s what this should be. Congress, could re... This is how we return control and some sense of order to the states. I yield back.”