How Missouri Republicans are challenging the federal government

JEFFERSON CITY — In a packed Senate hearing room in the Missouri Capitol in late February, conservative advocates and lawmakers spent an hour discussing what is almost certainly an entirely hypothetical scenario. They were deliberating the pros and cons of calling for a constitutional convention of the states, with the express purpose of constraining the federal government’s authority. That desire to amend the Constitution is one manifestation of a broader conservative sentiment, particularly in Republican-controlled states like Missouri: mounting displeasure with — and fear of — overreach by the federal government, on issues from taxes to health care to gun rights. While the notion of a constitutional convention may seem far-fetched — there’s never been one — the movement has some traction. More than 30 states are considering, or have already voted on, legislation demanding one. Proponents see it as the best tactic to curb what they consider a growing abuse of power, while others are leery of the unpredictability of where such a convention might lead. Article V of the Constitution provides states with this legal pathway to alter the document as an alternative to the better-known process in which Congress proposes amendments. Though unprecedented, it’s a path plenty of Missouri conservatives are eager to promote. “This is a movement that’s well organized,” said Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, who is sponsoring both a resolution calling for an Article V convention and a bill laying out the rules for how Missouri would appoint and control its own constitutional delegation. […]

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