Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in Maine today to gin up support for a constitutional convention where a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be proposed.
It takes the support of two-thirds of the states (34) to call the convention; it would take the support of three-quarters of the states (38) to ratify an amendment. Beyond that, though, little is known about how a constitutional convention would go down. The last one happened in 1787.
Kasich is on a push to urge state legislatures to back a balanced-budget amendment. He’s also a prospective contender in the 2016 presidential primary. He’s in Maine after a swing through New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Given that no constitutional convention has happened in 228 years, there’s little precedent to follow for the convention Kasich is pushing. Article V of the U.S. Constitution offers the thresholds of support needed to amend the Constitution, but no details on what a legislature would actually have to do to get behind the call for a convention.
Then, the Constitution doesn’t even offer the broadest of outlines for the proceedings of a constitutional convention and what could and couldn’t be done. Robert Greenstein of the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities offered this take last year in the Washington Post:
“As constitutional experts from the late Chief Justice Warren Burger to Justice Antonin Scalia to Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe have warned, a constitutional convention would place the nation in uncharted territory, with very serious risks for our political system. Convening a convention, as Tribe put it, would be ‘putting the whole Constitution up for grabs.’ And although I don’t often agree with Scalia, he hit the nail on the head when he said recently: ‘I certainly would not want a constitutional convention. Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?’”