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It has been 43 years since the proposal of the last successful amendment: the 26th Amendment, which granted the right to vote at age 18. The states ratified the 27th Amendment on congressional pay increases, thanks in large part to Mr. Watson’s efforts, but it was actually one of the original amendments submitted to the states in 1789.

The proposed balanced budget amendment has been percolating for decades. Congressional Republicans held votes two years ago to send another version to state legislatures, but the effort fell far short.

Uncharted territory

Last year, dozens of state lawmakers gathered at Mount Vernon to develop strategies for a constitutional convention under Article V. One of those in attendance was Michigan state Sen. Mike Green, the sponsor of the balanced budget convention call that cleared his Legislature last week.

“It was an issue that was near to my heart. I just feel like we’re spending ourselves into oblivion,” he said.

Mr. Green said he also sees momentum in other states.

“I believe it’ll happen, and it’ll happen fast. I’m convinced we’ll have it done by the end of the year — have the call go out, have the 34 states onboard to make the call for the convention,” he said.

At that point, the United States would truly be in uncharted territory.

Legal scholars said it’s up to Congress to officially issue the call, but someone could go to court to try to force action on Capitol Hill.

Questions have been raised about whether a constitutional convention would be limited to considering only a balanced budget amendment or whether it could go broader. What is known as a runaway convention is a major fear for some opponents of using the Article V process.

They cite the precedent of the 1787 convention, which was called to amend and improve the Articles of Confederation but wound up scrapping them and sending the states a whole new constitution, the one in effect to this day.

Mr. Natelson said his scholarship indicates that a convention could be limited and that many of the other questions have been worked out in states that have held conventions.

“I don’t see a lot of unresolved issues as far as the actual convention process is concerned because we know so much from history and the prior case decisions,” he said.

Mr. Magliocca said one reason to pursue an Article V convention is to put pressure on Congress to act. Even then, he said, there aren’t any recent examples of success.

“At best, it’s one of many ways of drawing attention to an issue and building public support for something,” he said.

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