Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has come out in favor of the idea of a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution, adding a high-profile voice to an issue that has picked up renewed interest in some conservative circles.
Mr. Rubio said a convention, which would the first in the nation’s history, was needed to rein in the power of Washington insiders and get the nation’s finances in order.
“One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office: I will announce that I am a supporter, and as president I will put the weight of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states so we can pass term limits on members of Congress and the Supreme Court and so we can pass a balanced budget amendment,” Mr. Rubio said in Iowa.
In the past, Mr. Rubio has acknowledged the concerns of some critics who say such a call for a convention could go in unpredictable directions, opening up the possibility of far-reaching proposals to overhaul the Constitution.
He said this week that the convention’s mandate would have to be limited to keep the delegates from going rogue.
“I think you’d have to limit the convention, and that’s what they’re proposing — a very limited convention on specific, delineated issues … like term limits and like a balanced budget amendment,” he said.
Under the Constitution, it takes two-thirds of the states — now 34 — to apply to convene a convention, though the process has never been used and there is debate over whether the language in the application has to be uniform.
Advocates responding to fears of a “runaway” convention point out that it takes three-quarters of the states, or 38, to approve changes to the Constitution, so there would presumably be sufficient democratic checks to block unpalatable amendments.
Mr. Rubio also said he has spoken with former Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, about a constitutional convention. Mr. Coburn is one of a number of prominent conservative voices to throw his support behind the Convention of States Project, which Citizens for Self-Governance is operating.
Among other Republican presidential candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has endorsed the project, and a spokesman for the presidential campaign of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said Mr. Carson would as well.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said he wants a convention for the purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has spoken out in favor of a balanced budget amendment and said he thinks a convention could be held in a limited way.
Republican Party platforms have routinely called for an amendment requiring the federal government to balance its books every year, as is the case with many states. The closest an amendment came to success through the normal process was in 1995, when the recommendation to amend the Constitution passed the House but failed in the Senate by a single vote.