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A Constitutional Plan for Installing Romney as President? Oh, wait. Nevermind.

November 26, 2012

As CAC has documented many times, the tea party claims to channel the Founding Fathers and adhere rigidly to the Constitution, but only rarely understands what the document says.

A perfect example came late last week in the conservative World Net Daily, where Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips claimed to have found the perfect constitutional loophole for a last-ditch attempt to keep President Obama from re-assuming office in January.

In the article, Phillips claims that the 12th Amendment requires a quorum of two-thirds of the Electoral College to be present in order to select a President. If that quorum is not present, he asserts, the power to elect the President falls to the House of Representatives. Thus, according to Phillips, all that would be required for a “totally constitutional” coup would be for pro-Romney Electors to boycott their December meeting, sending the decision to the Republican-controlled House to legally install Mitt Romney as President.

By Phillips’ reasoning:

“Mitt Romney carried 24 states. We need to have conservative activists from all over the nation contact the electors, the Republican Party and the secretary of state in all of these states and tell them not to participate in the Electoral College when it meets on Dec. 17.

If we can get 17 of those states (just over one-third) to refuse to participate, the Electoral College will have no quorum. Then, as the Constitution directs, the election goes to the House of Representatives. That is how we can still pull this election out and make Mitt Romney president in January.”

There’s only one problem. The 12th Amendment doesn’t say that at all. Here’s the text itself:

The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have such majority, then…the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states…

A quick reading shows that Phillips has his voting bodies backward. There is no quorum requirement for the Electoral College. If pro-Romney electors boycotted the meeting as Phillips has urged, the others would simply meet without them and elect President Obama.  The House of Representatives only enters the picture in the unlikely event of a perfect tie in the Electoral College. It’s only there that a quorum of two-thirds is required.

This distinction went right over the head of the eager Phillips, who called his plan to overturn the choice of a clear majority of Americans the “last chance” to “save America,” and humbly offered that “it does not matter who gets credit for this. The credit is not important.”

The editors of World Net Daily ultimately caught Phillips’ huge constitutional error.  Rather than take his piece down, however, they left it up but prefaced it with what is surely one of the best Editor’s Notes of the year—a big, Gilda Radner-esque “nevermind!”

“Editor’s note, Nov. 20, 2012: Since this column was posted it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error.”

“The premise presented about . . . the Constitution is in error.” If only all of the tea party’s constitutional fictions came with that warning label attached.

Thanks to the editors of World Net Daily for taking the words right out of our mouths and preserving a very telling tea party clunker.

 

Photo credit: Media Matters for America.