Mississippi joins other states calling for convention to limit federal government

Published 6:39 am Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mississippi has become the 15th state to ask Congress to call a national “convention of states” to try to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the powers of the federal government.

Supporters say a convention would focus on reducing federal spending. Opponents, however, say they worry a convention could try to limit the judiciary or take voting rights from women or African-Americans.

Mississippi House members argued more than an hour Wednesday before voting 69-46 to adopt a resolution that cleared the state Senate last week. As in the Senate, most House Republicans voted in favor and most Democrats voted against the proposal.

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Since 2013, a Convention of States group has been asking states to adopt such resolutions. The efforts are backed by tea party supporters who say they have lost faith in Congress’ willingness to limit federal spending.

Two-thirds of states, currently 34, must call for a convention. Three-fourths of states, currently 38, must approve any amendments.

Democratic Rep. Jarvis Dortch of Raymond was one of several African-American Mississippi lawmakers who raised concerns about the potential scope of a constitutional convention.

“The federal government has used its power and jurisdiction to pass the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, to give black people the right to vote, women the right to vote,” Dortch said. “How are those not affected by this?”

Republican Rep. Dan Eubanks of Walls, who is white, responded that a constitutional convention would be for “a specific call” focused on limiting spending.

“There’s a lot of fear mongering going on,” Eubanks said later in the debate after opponents raised other objections.

Mississippi’s call for the constitutional convention says any Mississippi delegates would not participate in talks about term limits for members of Congress. In a vote that fell largely along party lines, House Republicans rejected Democrats’ efforts to change the resolution to specify that Mississippi delegates would protect voting rights for African-Americans and women.

Some Democrats also said Mississippi, which is one of the poorest states in the nation, could be hurt by limiting federal spending. Mississippi receives much more money from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes.