And now for something even more completely different. All opinions herein are my own and not necessarily those of any other party. If you don’t like this one, just hold on — another Cheese of the Day is next on my list to post 🙂 .
The recent Federal government shutdown took the livelihoods of 800,000 employees. In three weeks, those people may again be without pay — and many forced to work for free. This is tyranny, and must be prevented.
The State legislatures have the power to protect their citizens from this Federal abuse. Please ask your legislators to apply to Congress for a Federal Constitutional Convention that will pass amendments protecting government employees from future shutdowns.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress must call a Convention if two thirds of the States request one (Article V). Where the Federal government is unable to act, the States can compel action. A Federal Constitutional Convention can restore the lives of Federal employees and prevent them from being bargaining chips in future policy debates.
I propose two amendments to the U.S. Constitution with respect to the shutdown, and one amendment to update the amendment process itself. The text and rationale of each proposal is below. The two shutdown-related amendments are, in brief:
- That no one shall be forced to work without pay; and
- That government wages and benefits shall be paid unless expressly rescinded — they will not expire when Congress and the President fail to pass a budget.
Proposed Amendment #1 to the U.S. Constitution
No person shall be forced to work without pay.
This article does not apply to, and shall be disregarded in any consideration of, any prisoner of war, any person serving a sentence, or any minor.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Rationale for Proposed Amendment #1
Section 1: Everyone’s work is valuable and should be rewarded. Forcing people to work without pay degrades them, creates unhealthy work environments, and — in some cases — causes unsafe situations. This puts all of us at risk.
Section 2: We have specific laws and international agreements for the treatment of prisoners of war, convicted criminals, and minors. Those have developed over many years, and I think it is worth letting them continue to develop. This section makes clear that this amendment does not affect that development.
Proposed Amendment #2 to the U.S. Constitution
Any appropriation by a government for the wages or benefits of a government employee shall continue in force until expressly rescinded by appropriate legislation. Any such appropriation specifying a period of validity shall automatically renew as often as necessary, without gaps in effect, until expressly rescinded by appropriate legislation.
No law or regulation shall prevent a government from incurring debt to pay for the wages or benefits of a government employee.
Sections 1 and 2 shall not apply to any appropriation that is for neither employee wages nor employee benefits, regardless of whether that appropriation is included in a bill or other legislative action that also includes an appropriation for employee wages or benefits.
This article applies to appropriations in force on or after December 1, 2018.
The term “government” in this Article refers to the government of the United States, to the governments of the several States, and to all governments established under the laws of the United States or of any State.
The legislative body of each government shall have the power to enforce this article with respect to that government’s employees by appropriate legislation.
Rationale for Proposed Amendment #2
Section 1: This prevents government employees from becoming bargaining chips. Whatever happens, their wages and benefits will still be paid. By extending the appropriation, the payment of wages and benefits remains authorized under the Constitution, Art. 1, sec. 9, clause 7, and the Antideficiency Act, 31 USC 1341.
Many existing appropriations are annual. This section expressly specifies automatic renewal rather than elimination of the end date of an appropriation so existing accounting can still be used.
Section 2: Government debt is a significant problem. However, I believe that the livelihoods of the government’s employees are more important. So that future shutdowns will not harm employees, governments need to be able to get the money to pay them. This section only applies to wages and benefits of government employees — any current debt ceilings remains in place for everything else.
Section 3: This is to prevent people from adding unrelated riders to wage-appropriation bills.
Section 4: This section is specific to the current situation. If a shutdown is in progress when this amendment is enacted, this section will restore wages to what they were before the most recent shutdown.
Section 5: If this article only applied to Federal workers, State- and local-government employees would still be at risk. This closes that potential loophole: all wage appropriations continue until expressly rescinded, regardless of the level of government. However, an amendment only relating to the Federal government would still be better than the present situation!
Section 6: Since this amendment affects all levels of government, all levels of government need the power to implement this amendment appropriately for their situations.
Proposed Amendment #3 to the U.S. Constitution
(a) Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by:
- Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary;
- A Convention for proposing Amendments, which Congress shall call on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several States; or
- A Convention for proposing Amendments convened by mutual agreement of at least two thirds of the several States, Congress being notified and prominent public notice of the Convention being given in all agreeing States.
(b) Amendments shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by three fourths of the several States.
(c) A State’s decision on ratification of an Amendment shall be made by that State’s legislature or by another ratifying body authorized by that State’s constitution. No State’s ratifying body may include fewer people than the number of members of that State’s legislature.
(d) No State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
The fifth Article of the original Constitution is hereby repealed. This Article has the same intent as the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
Rationale for Proposed Amendment #3
Section 1: This modernizes the amendment process and grants States more flexibility, without changing the basic thresholds of 2/3 and 3/4.
Item (a)(3) permits the States to convene a Federal Constitutional Convention without Congressional involvement. I believe this is a reasonable balance to the increase in Congressional power over the last 70 years. This is also much easier than it would have been when the Constitution was passed, since communications and travel between States is dramatically faster. The requirement for public notice in this item prevents the danger of a secret Convention.
Item (c) lets each State choose its own mode of ratifying amendments. The conditions of each State are different, so each State deserves the opportunity to choose. This also parallels the States’ freedom in the way they choose members of the Electoral College. Although the State’s Legislature is the default, States could also choose to ratify in convention or by referendum. The requirement on the minimum size of the ratifying body is so that one person cannot make the decision for an entire State.
Section 2: We only need one amendment process. I think it is clearer to replace the old than to try to specify the new language by changes. Section 1(d) retains the requirement that States continue to have equal Suffrage in the Senate. Therefore, this Section is permissible under Art. 5.
The Federalist #85 deals with amendments, and I see nothing therein that would give rise to an objection to Section 1. To avoid doubt, the section specifies continuity of intent with the original Art. 5.