Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday the election of a Republican president does not change the need to assemble a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution, pressing forward with one of the biggest priorities of his governorship a month after Donald Trump's shocking victory.
"What is ailing America is far bigger than what any one president can fix," Abbott said at an event marking the filing of convention-of-states legislation for the upcoming legislative session. "All three branches of government have so far strayed from what the Constitution provides [that] it's impossible to put that genie back in the box by just one president. It's going to take far too long."
With Trump's presidency looming, many Texas Republicans are finding themselves without the reliable foil in Washington that they have had for the last eight years under Democratic President Barack Obama. That includes Abbott, who as attorney general sued the Obama administration more than 30 times and as governor proposed a convention of states to combat what he views as federal overreach.
On Tuesday, however, Abbott squared the new political reality with his convention-of-states crusade by arguing the president-elect "epitomizes exactly why we need a convention of states."
"What we need is states to lead the way in proposing constitutional amendments because you know that the president-elect himself has called for one of the constitutional amendments that we are calling for, which is to put term limits on members of the United States Congress," Abbott said.
Abbott's remarks came the same day state lawmakers filed resolutions calling for a convention of states, which would allow states to propose amendments to the Constitution. For it to happen, 34 state legislatures must apply for a convention. Only eight have done so, but convention-of-states supporters are hopeful many other states will rush to the cause once Texas adds its name to the list.
Abbott has made assembling a convention of states a top priority of his time in the governor's office. In January, he put forward nine constitutional amendments, including proposals to require Congress to adopt a balanced budget and to allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The issue was also a focus of Abbott's book, "Broken but Unbowed," published in May.
Convention-of-states legislation did not make it through the Texas Legislature during the last legislative session in 2015, but supporters believe a few factors are working in their favor ahead of the next session. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said at the event that sometimes "really new and complex issues take a couple of sessions to get through."
In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has named passing a resolution calling for a convention of states one of 25 legislative priorities he has announced so far for next year's session. After the event Tuesday, Patrick released a statement calling Abbott a leader on the issue and reiterating that the convention-of-states bill remains a "top priority for him and for me."
On Tuesday, Abbott was newly confident about the plan's chances on the national level, noting that Republicans now control governorships in 33 states after the November elections. "We can get this done," Abbott said.
Abbott and King were joined Tuesday by state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, who also pushed back on the idea that a Republican president makes a convention of states less urgent.
"I think that's great, but that doesn't mean that we don't need to do this. Texas must lead the way," Miller said. "We know that there are many states that are lined up behind us just waiting to see what Texas is going to do."