Virginia lawmakers push for constitutional convention

Virginia Republicans are pushing for a new constitutional convention as a way to limit the power and spending of the federal government.

Three bills calling for a new meeting of the states passed the House Rules Committee on Friday.

History will show that “Virginia spoke very loudly — that we are going to return fiscal responsibility to our federal system,” said Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), who sponsored one of the bills.

The move follows those of lawmakers in several other states, including Georgia and Indiana, who are agitating for a convention under Article V of the Constitution.

“The Founding Fathers gave us this process . . . for the very moment I think we are in right now,” testified Michael Farris of the group Citizens for ­Self-Governance. “The federal government has gone so far out of its bounds.”

But several people testified before the committee that while they were unhappy with the direction of the country, they were equally worried by what could happen at a convention where the entire U.S. Constitution could be rewritten. One suggested that it was like trying to win a fight by giving your opponent a gun.

Some critics were satisfied by the version backed by Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta), whose bill would call first for amending Article V to limit the convention’s scope.

While Republicans in the Virginia House may well be supportive, the bills are unlikely to pass the state Senate, now under Democratic control.

And even if the bills pass, two-thirds of the 50 states would have to agree to call for the convention and three-fourths of the states would have to ratify the results.

Still, the prospect was bothersome enough that Cary Nunnally traveled to Richmond from Newport News, Va., to protest the bills.

She requested that if they do pass, they should include an option for those who want no part in the convention to secede from the union.

“We tried that once before,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), who voted for all three bills. “It didn’t work out well.”

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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