National conservative political groups have devised a new "quickkill strategy that they believe could sink the congressional representation well before the time period for the amendment's ratification runs out.
The plan, revealed at a national conservative conference here this weekend, would have state legisaltures that decide not to ratify the amendment send formal resolutions of disapproval to the federal government.
The conservatives say such resolutions could bind a state permanently against the amendment. On this theory, just 13 negative resolutions would make it impossible for the amendment to win approval of the 38 states needed for ratification.
"We have our people working on this idea in every legislature that has a session this year," said Larry Pratt, of the Guns Owners of America, one of the groups working against the amendment. "Our initial indications are that we could get 13 states to do it within a year."
The new strategy, proposed by the gun owners group and the American Legislative Exchange Council, seemed to receive a warm reception from conservative activists attending the Conservative Political Action Conference here.
The conservatives said they liked the plan partly because they thought it might work and partly for the irony involved. For the new strategy is based on constitutional arguments put forth by liberal groups in last year's debate over extending the ratification period for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The ERA advocates argued that once a state has approved a proposed amendment, it cannot rescind its approval. The conservatives now want to apply the liberals' "no resolutions as well.
"Our lawyers say the principle will apply as long as we get the states to file formal resolutions saying they disapprove," Pratt explained. "That's what's new about this, see -- usually when a state votes down an amendment, they don't send any notice to Washington."
Pratt suggested that liberals who favor the D.C. amendment might decide not to challenge the new strategy. "If we can make this work, it sets up a very effective way to block amendments," Pratt said. "The liberals might just want to keep it around in case they have to use it against an abortion amendment, or a balanced budget, or something like that."
The amendment to give District residents voting representation in Congress has been approved by three states. It has been rejected by at least one house in five states. Pratt said his state lobbyists would begin in those five legislatures to try to gain approval for formal resolutions of disapproval.
The conservative groups say the D.C. representation amendment conflicts with basic principles of federalism. But their opposition also reflects practical politics: the fear that members of Congress from the District would all be liberals.
Pratt was frank about the gun owners' interest in the measure. "The amendment would bring in two senators who would probably be minority and would definitely be liberal on gun control," he said.