The Balanced Budget Amendment has arrived in Montana. And we (almost) completely screwed up.

Shares

On the 11th, while you were tweeting about Yoga Pants, the House Judiciary committee voted to pass HJ 4, a “Joint Resolution for a Balanced Budget Amendment.” Rep. Matthew Monforton (R-HD 69) was the primary sponsor of this bill.

HJ 4  is another step in a nation-wide push to force Congress into calling a Constitutional Convention with the sole purpose of “limit[ing] the spending of the federal government to be equal or less than the revenue it collects every year“. 34 states need to pass resolutions in support of a Convention in order for one to be called, 24 have already done so, and Wyoming and South Dakota are only votes away from joining that list.

At its core, the Balanced Budget Amendment is an attempt by out-of-state group to slash government programs that provide safety nets to our most at-risk neighbors. If we ever did get to the point of a Constitutional Convention, the wallet-squeezing measures on the chopping block will not be our unfair taxation standards or lowering the pay of our Congresspeople. It will be SNAP, TANF, the VA, and IHS. Who would be most at risk? Veterans, seniors, the disabled, kids, and reservation communities.

Guess who were the surprise votes that allowed this potentially disastrous policy out of committee? Representatives Zac Perry (D-HD3), Andrew Person (D-HD96), and Ellie Hill (D-HD94). Here is the vote tabulation. And, yes…there were Republicans who voted against the bill.

As a veteran, Person should have known better. As someone who has worked much of her professional career publicly pushing for justice for our most-at risk communities, Ellie Hill should have known better. One can only assume that this was a disastrous attempt at rescuing her bill also calling for a Constitutional Convention on behalf of Citizens United (“Resolution to Restore Free and Fair Elections in America” HJ3), which was killed by the very people that she voted with on HJ 4. Regardless, their votes are the reason why Montana may become another state in the lineup calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Here’s the thing. Some people do want to call for a Constitutional Convention for Citizens United. Representative Ellie Hill is an outspoken member among this group. Now, hear me please, I do not believe that the Citizens United vs. FEC decision was just. But at this point in our history, with the political climate that we exist under, a Constitutional Convention is a genuinely terrible idea.

Why?

A Constitutional Convention is a “No Holds Bar” game of political Russian Roulette. There is no legal precedent currently in existence that provides a limited scope of what can happen during a Constitutional Convention. Meaning, if you wanted to hold a convention for Citizen’s United, it is remarkably unlikely that the changes to our constitution would be left at that. Which swings us back to our Balanced Budget friends, and the danger that their out-of-state push poses to our neighbors. (P.S. The first to literally jump out of his seat and testify on HJ4 was Bill Fruth, a Floridan who uses his own money to travel around the country to talk about a Balanced Budget Amendment.)

To make matters worse, our very, very conservative congress holds the power to determine the scope, the process, and number of delegates. Which means that Montana will be one of the tinier voices at a Constitutional Convention; Think Electoral College-style tiny. And, a Convention will never be just about Citizens United while our climate is the way it is.

Because of the votes of a few, the safety and security of our friends and neighbors could be at risk. A Constitutional Convention is a terrible idea, and we need to shut this shit down until our Congress has the capacity and foresight to make a convention about spending in politics, rather than gutting our budget.

Here’s hoping that the House Floor can shut this shit down.

 

If you appreciate our efforts to hold Montana Republicans accountable and the independent journalism here at The Montana Post, please consider supporting our work with a small pledge.
Join a discussion of this (and all of our post) at our Facebook community page.

About the author

ML

I am a Montanan, fisher-person, and a passionate progressive. My political interests lie within political ethics, economic justice, and the responsiveness of government to the needs of real people.

4 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • I have some questions on this post, Anastasia, but I appreciate you writing about the issue. Just how do we kill Citizens United without a Constitutional Convention? And why can’t we limit a convention’s scope? You say there’s no legal precedent. Maybe we can make one. Rep. Hill is no slouch on Constitutional law so there has to be sound reasoning for advancing her billI (besides the fact that Citizens United is universally despised by anyone who supports the democratic process). I understand your very legitimate concern about a balanced budget amendment. As are most of Monforton’s bills, this most recent one is terrible. But we have good Democrats voting against good Democrats’ bills and good Democrats voting for bad Republican bills. Can we get our act together, people?

    • Good question. The only answers I can give are conjecture, but these fears are shared with a wide swath of people that are equally, if not more so, versed in Constitutional Law as Representative Hill.

      1. The states who have called for a Constitutional Convention in our recent history have not done so with Citizen’s United in mind. If we did have a CC at this point, it would be primary centered on the Budget. So, yes. There is a possibility that we could do something about Citizen’s United at a Constitutional Convention, but since the main thrust for a CC has not been about that the possibility of ruining our safety net structures is very present. At this point, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis; is it more important to change Citizen’s United by way of a CC at this point and risk the well-being of millions of people, or is it more important to wait until a more sound political moment so as not to risk the well-being of those same millions?

      2. It would take a heavy dose of narcissism to believe that one representative from Montana could have control over the structure, scope, and process of a Constitutional Convention. Like I said above, Congress has control over all of the structural pieces, including who the delegates are, etc. A state can make a heavy suggestion of what they would like to have a Convention centered around, but, again, Congress is the final decider in that matter. And, there never was a group of people less interested in removing money from politics than our current Congress.

      I have no idea why Representative Hill would vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment. She had a completely separate bill for Citizen’s United. It’s either a lapse in judgement, or a very brazen attempt at controlling what cannot be controlled. Or, she doesn’t believe in the potential repercussions. It’s equally puzzling as to why the Freshman Representative, Andrew Person, would vote for this. He’s also made some concerning calls this session with regards to property taxes though, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

  • As to limiting the scope, remember that the convention that produced the Constitution was called for the purpose of fixing the Articles of Confederation, not junking them and replacing them with a completely different document. The convention determined its own scope.

/* ]]> */