Coburn is fed up with government, and he plans to do something about it when he retires

Exiting senator wants to change the Constitution

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is fed up with the way the government works — or doesn't work — and he plans to do something about it as soon as he's out of office at the end of this term.

What does he plan to do? Change the Constitution. But not just part of the document, Coburn wants to take a red pen to it.

Following a growing frustration with the gridlock in politics, Coburn told The Hill he will officially launch an effort to hold a national convention to amend the Constitution once he retires in the fall.

Coburn’s potential changes include term limits for members of Congress, a new balanced budget amendment and reestablishing the powers of Congress.

To do this, Coburn would have to invoke Article V of the Constitution, which stipulates how the Constitution can be changed. That can only happen one of two ways: either two-thirds of states vote for a convention—which has never been successfully accomplished. Or, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate vote through a change and then send it to the states for ratification—that’s happened only 17 times since the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

But Coburn views having to go through Congress a dead end.

“I think [George] Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy. That’s why he put Article V in,” Coburn told the Hill.

Although it’s unlikely that Coburn will be able to gather the bipartisan support from states needed to establish a national convention—he’s not the first politician or scholar to propose the idea.

Conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have both endorsed the idea of holding a convention.

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and the founder of the independent Mayday PAC, has pushed a bipartisan convention as a potential means to fix the current government system.  

And recently a representative also jumped on the bandwagon for constitutional change. Rep. John Larson, a Democrat from Connecticut, introduced a joint resolution in April that would reform the Constitution to extend a term in the House of Representatives from two years to four, with staggered elections. It’s an act he said will give members more time to work across the aisle.

But the soonest push you’re likely to see a member of Congress make to change the Constitution is planned to happen next week when Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., brings a vote on a new joint resolution to change to the floor. The resolution would add a 28th Amendment to the Constitution, which would give Congress the ability to regulate election campaign contributions.

The last time an amendment passed the Senate, House and two thirds of states was 22 years ago. Although Udall's resolution only has 48 co-sponsors, all Democrats and independents, bringing the measure to the floor is just as much to make a statement as to get real traction.

And isn’t that what much of politics is all about?

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