ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Republicans are again pushing for the state to call for conventions to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and limit the terms of members of Congress, arguing the state needs to lend its support to disrupting the status quo in Washington.
The state Senate voted 34-20 Monday for both Senate Resolution 28 to limit the number of terms a federal lawmaker can serve and Senate Resolution 29 to require a balanced budget. The measures move to the House for more debate.
The sponsor of the resolutions, Republican Bill Cowsert of Athens, said the measures will “reel Congress back in so it will become a functioning body again.”
Congress can propose amendments to the states by a two-thirds vote, but the U.S. Constitution says two-thirds of states can also propose amendments to the nation’s governing document by calling a convention. In either case, three quarters of states must ratify any proposed amendment. While 27 congressionally proposed amendments have been ratified, there’s never been a state-proposed amendment ratified.
It would be at least the fourth time that Georgia has called for a convention to consider a balanced budget and at least the second time it’s called for a convention to consider term limits.
Georgia’s term limits resolution does not specify how many terms House members and senators should be limited to, and its balanced budged resolution does not specify what the rules should be.
Cowsert disputed fears that any convention might do things that the states didn't intend, saying the resolutions and Georgia law allowing recall of delegates would prevent that.
Proponents of a balanced budget say debt and spending are on an unsustainable course, although Cowsert said he thought it's OK to borrow money for long-term improvements, or to allow deficit spending during an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic or during a war.
Opponents, though, say that any amendment would hurt responses to recessions and endanger programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“This is a bad idea on so many fronts," Democratic Sen. Nan Orrock of Atlanta said.
Cowsert said Georgia could become the 34th state to call for a balanced budget, trigging a convention. But that number is in dispute, in part because some states have rescinded previous calls.
Those who support term limits say incumbents have too many fund-raising advantages because of ties to interest groups and that more frequent turnover of lawmakers would promote new ideas and simplification of the federal government.
“Those congressmen don’t own those seats they’re sitting in, and the senators don’t own them," Cowsert said. “They have no entitlement to those.”
Opponents, though, say voters should be able to keep the representative of their choice for as long as they want and experienced lawmakers are good. They argue term limits would give more power to monied interests that pro-term-limit forces say they oppose.
“If you’re doing your job where you are connecting with people in your district as it relates to their problems and keeping them informed, then that’s really the type of legislator that they would want to reelect,” said Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat.
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