The Countermand Amendment

cropped-bob-shapiro.jpg   By Bob Shapiro

I have been aware of several calls for Constitutional Amendments (including my own for a Dollar Limit on Federal Spending). Some of these call for a Constitutional Convention, while others merely ask for Congress to limit its own powers.

I just came across a new one (new for me), which makes a lot of sense, although I’d like some time to consider possible unintended consequences. The proposed Amendment is called the “Countermand Amendment.”

Simply put, it would allow 60% of State Legislatures (currently 30 States) to vote to countermand any law, regulation, tax, agency ruling, judicial decision, treaty. These 30 States could render the offending law (etc) to be null and void.

One concern I have is that the 60% rule might make it too easy to knock out an unpopular law. Currently, an Amendment requires 3/4 of the States to ratify an Amendment which 2/3 of each House of Congress has passed. I probably could live with 60%, but I’d be more comfortable with a raise to 2/3 of States.

US Constitution

I also have some reservations on calling Constitutional Conventions. Under the Articles of Confederation, our country called a Convention specifically empowered to consider changes to the Articles of Confederation. At the subsequent Convention, this charge specifically was rejected – no changes to the then-existing document were proposed. Instead, and entirely different “Constitution” was created. Could this wholesale swap of the ruling document of our country reoccur? I don’t know.

Some historians say that the Constitution granted very much more power to the central government – a defect we suffer under today. Never having lived under – or even studied – the Articles of Confederation, I have no way of knowing whether or not the Constitution actually was an improvement. From my perspective, from more than 2 1/4 centuries later, I’m well satisfied with the Constitution and just wish that our federal government would follow the Highest Law of the Land.

I have reproduced below, the text of the proposed Amendment for your consideration. The group sponsoring it can be reached on their web site,


Text of proposed


ARTICLE 28 (or alternate number to be assigned by Congress)

Section 1.  The Article restores State sovereignty in our Constitutional Republic by providing State Legislatures Countermand authority.

Section 2.  State Legislatures in the several States shall have the authority to Countermand and rescind any Congressional Statute, Judicial decision, Executive Order, Treaty, government agency’s regulatory ruling, or any other government or non-government mandate (including excessive spending and credit) imposed on them when in the opinion of 60 percent of State Legislatures the law or ruling adversely affects their States’ interest.  When the Countermand threshold has been reached, the law or ruling shall be immediately and automatically nullified and repealed.  This Countermand authority shall also apply to existing laws and rulings.

Section 3.  From the time the initial Countermand is issued by a State Legislature, the other Legislatures shall have 18 months to complete the Countermand process.  If the Countermand process is not completed in 18 months, then the law or ruling that is being challenged shall remain enforceable.

Section 4.  Each State Legislature must complete their Countermand affidavit and deliver a certified copy to the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Leader of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the United States, and when applicable the Government Agency or Body that is being challenged.

Section 5.  Any elected or non-elected government official, or any non-government individual or organization, who intentionally obstructs or prevents the implementation of any provision in this Article shall have committed a criminal offense and shall be subject to impeachment (when applicable)and criminal prosecution and upon conviction serve up to five years in prison.

Section 6.  Individual States shall have authority to prosecute violators of this Article under State laws in the absence of Federal prosecution after 90 days from the date of the alleged violation.  Multiple prosecutions, by multiple States, for the same alleged crime are prohibited.

Section 7. The Article shall be immediately part of the United States Constitution upon ratification by three quarters of the State Legislatures in the several States.

Section 8.  The provisions of this Article are enforceable within the United States which shall include the Several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the territories and possessions of the United States.

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