Dozens of Republican legislators from across the nation convened in Arizona on Sept. 12 to discuss the potential of holding a Article V convention, which would grant participants the ability to amend the U.S. Constitution.
The event brought more than 70 GOP delegates from 19 different states to the Arizona Balanced Budget Planning Convention in Phoenix. The state lawmakers used the event to plan for a potential amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to deliver a balanced budget every fiscal year to cut down the federal deficit.
"Today's gathering is long overdue," said GOP state Sen. Steve Montenegro, according to AZCentral. "A balanced-budget amendment is likely the most important topic you could be considering. When the world decides it is no longer interested in bankrolling Congress' irresponsible ways, the crash will be swift and severe."
Article V allows delegates to amend the U.S. Constitution if two-thirds of state legislatures pass resolutions for a convention. So far, 27 GOP-controlled legislatures have already submitted proposals for a constitutional convention, nearing the threshold of 34 states. Currently, the Republican Party controls both legislative chambers in 32 states.
The balanced-budget amendment has drawn support from prominent Republican donors such as the billionaire Koch family. Critics of the proposal have argued that requiring a balanced budget with no exceptions would tie Congress' hands during an economic recession or natural disaster.
Republicans also discussed the potential of inserting amendments that would place term limits on members of Congress and place restrictions on raising the federal debt limit.
The delegates who convened in Phoenix were all Republican, entirely white and mostly male. Only nine women were in attendance.
"We welcome a lot of participation," said GOP delegate David Miller from Iowa, according to The Associated Press. "We welcome diversity. Unfortunately, people are scared, unsure or misinformed about this process so it's up to us to help educate the people."
GOP state Rep. Kelly Townsend asserted that delegates from Democratic-controlled legislatures had been invited but turned the offer down.
"The blue states haven't had an interest in coming," Townsend told the Arizona Capitol Times. "If we were talking about overturning Citizens United, they'd probably be here. This isn't their issue. It's a Republican issue."
There has never been an Article V convention to amend the Constitution, and Republican lawmakers' push to convene a convention has drawn fierce pushback. A group of protesters demonstrated outside the meeting of GOP delegates, with Democratic state Rep. Isela Blanc telling the crowd that a national convention would be used by Republicans to solely benefit their party and donor base.
"This is not 200 years ago when you had founders coming together to create a great nation," Blanc said. "These folks, who only represent their self-interests, are going to fight for the corporations, for billionaires. Forget the 99 percent."
On Sept. 18, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned during an interview that an Article V convention could be used to alter the Constitution beyond recognition.
"They want a constitutional convention to rewrite America's Constitution to better favor business, to favor religious beliefs, to tear down the wall between church and state," Clinton told NPR.