What Would You Do? Should Pennsylvania Back Proposal for Constitutional Convention?

What Would You Do? Should Pennsylvania Back Proposal for Constitutional Convention?

INSTRUCTIONS: In this activity, you assume the role of a state senate majority leader who has received a memo about a proposal for a new constitutional convention. You will review arguments for and against a new constitutional convention, decide whether to support or oppose legislation, and then provide a written explanation of your decision.

INTRODUCTION: To: Brian Arjun, Pennsylvania state senate majority leader

From: Amaia Grace, chief of staff

Subject: Proposal for a new constitutional convention

In the 1990s, several states approved term limits for their members of Congress, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that states do not have this authority. Now term-limit advocates are pursuing a broader strategy, calling for states to approve legislation that would require Congress to convene a special convention to consider several amendment proposals. Recommendations include enacting term limits for members of Congress and abolishing the Electoral College to permit the direct popular election of the president. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed such a bill last week, and several senators in your party have declared their support.

To Consider:

Yesterday Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives approved a proposal for a constitutional convention, and now the proposal goes to the State Senate. The Constitution states that Congress shall hold a convention for proposing amendments at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures, but it has never happened in U.S. history. Pennsylvania could become the twenty-eighth state to endorse the proposal, and then only six more states would have to approve for Congress to take action.

Arguments for:

1. The Twenty-Second Amendment restricts presidents to two terms, so members of Congress should face similar limits.

2. Term limits will ensure that national leaders do not become career politicians.

3. The public favors the direct popular election of the president, and a constitutional convention is the only realistic way to abolish the Electoral College.

Arguments against:

1. Limiting members of Congress to two terms would increase the power of lobbyists, congressional staffers, and administrative officials.

2. The Electoral College encourages a two-party system; a direct popular vote for the president would require runoff elections if no candidate won a majority.

3. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was held in secret and involved only a few dozen people; today it would be heavily covered by the media and involve hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. No one knows what changes it might make.

Additional Research:

The following links present the arguments for and against a new constitutional convention. Choose at least one link for each side of the argument and make sure to read through the entire text. Once you have enough information, move onto the next part of the activity.

Pro Arguments: