through which the people could amend the document. But, inrnoperation, the Constitution has been very hard to change.rnWashington’s “door” has been a narrow passage because thernfailure to obtain two-thirds of the members of each house ofrnCongress to approve the proposed amendment has, so far, endedrnthe amendment process. Congress has proven a jealousrnguard at the door to constitutional amendment, always reluctant,rnafter the earliest days of the republic, to propose anyrnamendment for the consideration of the states that might limitrnCongress’ own powers. Of course, the fact that the Constitutionrnis hard to change has opened an opportunity for thernSupreme Court to twist and shape the document, as Jeffersonrnsaid, as an artist shapes a ball of wax. Woodrow Wilson, in hisrn1908 book Congressional Government, noted that “The processrnof formal amendment was made so difficult by the provisionsrnof the Constitution itself that it has seldom been feasible to usernit; and the difficulty of formal amendment has understandablyrnmade the courts more liberal, not to say lax, in their interpretationrnthan they would otherwise have been.” The Court’s interpretationsrnhave almost always added powers to the nationalrngovernment.rnThe recent odysseys of two proposed constitutional amendments,rnone successful after a journey neariy as old as the Republicrnitself and the other unsuccessful after a far more abbreviatedrnexistence, show how the present system—dependent onrncongressional action—thwarts the wishes of the governed. Thernmost recent constitutional amendment, the 27th, was ratifiedrnin 1992 and prohibits a pay raise in Congress from taking effectrnuntil after an intervening election. Proposed by the FirstrnCongress in 1789 at the behest of James Madison as part of thernoriginal Bill of Rights, the amendment was ratified by six statesrnby 1791 and then lay dormant for nearly two centuries. But inrn1989, after Congress voted itself a 25 percent pay raise, thernsleeper awakened. Thirty-eight states quickly ratified thernMadison amendment, and it became part of the Constitution.rnBecause of the historical quirk that the First Congress proposedrnthe amendment without limiting the time allowed for its consideration,rnthe American people were able to change the Constitutionrnwithout having first to obtain the consent of the modernrnCongress, vvlrich was enjoying its pay raise.rnBy comparison, recent opinion polls show overwhelmingrnpublic sentiment favoring a Balanced Budget Amendment.rnNevertheless, Congress has consistently refused to send thernamendment to the states for their consideration. Last year, thernamendment was approved by a two-thirds vote of the House ofrnRepresentatives, but failed by one vote to get two-thirds of thernSenate. Senator Craig of Idaho, late in the debate, emphasizedrnthat the Senate was not being asked to “pass a balanced budgetrnamendment; it was being asked to propose” the amendment tornthe “citizens of the country.” He noted that the senators whornvoted against proposing the amendment “said very cleariy underrnall of the smokescreen and all of the excuses that the) gavernfor not voting for it—there were two fundamental things. Theyrndid not believe in the right of the states to control their centralrngovernment, and they would not give the citizens of thesernstates the right to choose that option. I think that is profound,rnand it is sad.” Similarly, Congress has refused to forward anyrnterm limit amendment to the states for their consideration.rnThe alternative of proposing an amendment by conventionrnhas proven itself to be only of marginal practical value. Supportersrnof two amendments, the 17th, direct election of Senatorsrn(1913), and the I9th, women’s suffrage (1920), did campaignrnfor a convention. As the number of states applying for arnconvention approached the necessary two-thirds. Congress, tornavoid the uncertainty of the convention route, bowed to thernpopular will and proposed the amendments under the firstrnmethod. The states then ratified.rnMore recently, proponents of term limits, following theirrnfive-to-four defeat in the Supreme Court, have announced arncampaign to get the 34 state applications necessary to requirernCongress to call a convention. They have accused Congress ofrna “clear conflict of interest” in failing to propose such anrnamendment. “No one sees a way to get term limits withoutrnstates beginning to apply for a term-limit convention,” saidrnPaul Jacobs, executive director of U.S. Term Limits. Because ofrnCongress’ refusal to propose the amendment, term limits advocatesrnare forced into the awkward position of calling for a conventionrnthey do not really want, in the hope that the processrnwill again prod Congress into proposing an amendment.rnAnew, third method of constitutionalrnamendment isrnneeded that will bypass altogetherrnthe requirement for congressionalrnapproval or a congressionalrncall for a convention.rnBecause of uncertainty over how the convention would bernorganized and what its powers would be, however, the secondrnmethod is not a practical alternative to an obstinate Congress.rnCongress continues to play a key role in the process, havingrnbeen given the sole authority to call a convention. Because thernConstitution does not specify how the call is to be made andrnwhat directions it should contain, a reluctant Congress mayrnwell establish methods of delegate selection or define the scopernof the convention so as to reduce the chances for approval ofrnany amendment unsatisfactory to Congress. Madison criticizedrnthe “vagueness” of the language during the 1787 Convention:rn”How was a Convention to be formed? By what rulerndecided? What the force of its acts?” Madison’s questions remainrnunanswered. A hostile Congress, in calling the convention,rncould easily take adantage of the vague language to imposernprocedures that indirectly sink the amendment.rnAnew, third method of constitutional amendment is neededrnthat will bypass altogether the requirement forrncongressional approval or a congressional call for a convention.rnBy allowing the states, without the approval of Congress, torncontrol the amendment of the Constitution, we could restorernthe bargain between the states and the federal government thatrnwas the heart of the initial constitutional structure. Any staterncould propose an amendment, such as one providing term lim-rnJULY 1996/19rnrnrn