Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
In a speech on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for a "Convention of States" focused on amending the US Constitution to put more emphasis on states' rights. In the address, given to a largely conservative audience at an event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Abbott said that he and other states' rights advocates would need to "take the lead to restore the rule of law in America."
Abbott joins US Senator Marco Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, in calling for a convention aimed at limiting federal power. In an editorial published byUSA Today earlier this week, Rubio advocated for such a convention, although he suggested limiting the scope of discussions around practical ideas. His prescriptions include "imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court" and "forcing fiscal responsibility through a balanced budget requirement."
Abbott, for his part, has also published a 92-page manifesto on overcoming what his administration perceives to be federal overreach. In the document, titled "Restoring the Rule of Law," Abbott provides an elaborate history of federal power, in which he describes The New Deal as an attempt to turn the federal government into a "bureaucratic behemoth that would regulate virtually every facet of American life."
The manifesto also calls for nine new constitutional amendments; many of these line up with Rubio's prescriptions, although Abbott's plan is much wider in scope. Under Abbott's plan, Congress would be unable to regulate any activity that only happens in one state, and will also be required to balance its own budget. A two-thirds majority of states wouldbe able to override a Supreme Court decision or federal law, and the Supreme Court would need a 7–2 majority to invalidate a law. States would also have the power to sue the federal government in federal court, and would be granted additional, unnamed powers in an effort to "restore the balance of power."
Despite calling for drastic revisions to the Constitution, Abbott claims that his plan will return the US to its founding principles. "We are succumbing to the caprice of man that our founders fought to escape," he said in his speech Friday. "The cure to these problems will not come from Washington D.C. They must come from the states."
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