Wisconsin may soon join the list of states demanding a convention to change the U.S. Constitution. Wednesday, the state Assembly voted to request a meeting of states to amend the document, requiring a balanced federal budget.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports a balanced budget amendment. He says a constitutional change is necessary and blames former President Obama for increasing the national debt to $20 trillion. Vos wants people to visualize the huge number.
“What is $20 trillion? It is 20 million million. It’s a two followed by 13 zeros. Laying down dollar bills end to end, you can circle the Earth 76,000 times. It would take 634,000 years to count to one trillion,” he says.
Vos says he fears future generations would drown in debt, if the states don’t amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.
Democratic Rep. Fred Kessler of Milwaukee questions the motives of people behind the proposal.
“If we wanted to balance the budget, we could cut services or we could raise taxes. There’s no need to have a constitutional amendment to do this. I think these resolutions are before us for a much more nefarious purpose. I think they are supported by extreme right wing groups that want to change the Constitution of the United States, repeal some of the Bill of Rights,” he says.
Another Democrat, Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison also fears a constitutional convention could lead to wild revisions because no rules limit it to one issue.
“This should scare you all. This should cause you to pause and to really think about whether you want to go forward. My God, Mr. Speaker, you have all the power at the state and you have all the power at the federal government. Figure out a way to balance the budget because this way is risky,” Taylor says.
Republican Kathy Bernier insists the convention would not result in the delegates rewriting the U.S. Constitution. Bernier says she and other legislative leaders from across the country have been meeting for years to map out a procedure for a convention.
“I am going to stick to this resolution. This resolution states that we will follow the rules of the Assembly of State Legislatures which I have participated in for nearly five years and our intentions are not nefarious in any way, shape or form,” she says.
Wisconsin would become the 30th of 34 states needed to force a convention. The states have never before convened a gathering to amend the U.S. Constitution. They did gather in 1787 and adopted the Constitution.