Introducing ‘Article V 2.0’: The Compact for a Balanced Budget

Published March 30, 2016

As the federal debt approaches $18 trillion, a balanced budget amendment has emerged as one of few viable options to curb government spending. The Article V process for amending the U.S. Constitution, however, is long and tedious.

In this updated report for The Heartland Institute [originally published in July 2014], Nick Dranias, a constitutional law expert, asks the question, “[W]hat if the states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in just 12 months?” The “Compact for a Balanced Budget” could accomplish that task, “changing the political game almost immediately,” writes Dranias in “Introducing ‘Article V 2.0’: A Compact for a Balanced Budget.”

Dranias notes, “without an interstate compact, the Article V convention process would require at least 100 legislative enactments, six independent legislative stages, and five or more years of legislative sessions to generate a constitutional amendment.” The compact approach instead uses “the ‘secret sauce’ of conditional enactments” to consolidate and simplify the convoluted Article V procedures. Dranias cites precedents and elucidates the intentions of the Founding Fathers to justify the constitutionality of the compact process.

If a compact-driven balanced budget amendment is adopted, Dranias concludes:

Washington will no longer have the ability to set its own credit limit and write itself a blank check. The states would become an active board of directors charged with keeping an eye on our wayward federal CEO and staff. Debt would become scarce. Priorities would have to be set. Sustainable federal programs would have to become the norm. A broad national consensus – not midnight-hour panic – would have to support any further increases in the national debt.


Nick Dranias is a policy advisor and research fellow for The Heartland Institute and president and executive director within the Office of the President of Compact for America Educational Foundation, Inc. He also maintains a limited side practice of law and policy analysis. 

Dranias previously served as general counsel and constitutional policy director for the Goldwater Institute, where he held the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and directed the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government. Dranias led the Goldwater Institute’s successful challenge to Arizona’s system of government campaign financing to the Supreme Court.

Dranias also serves as a constitutional scholar, authoring scholarly articles dealing with a wide spectrum of issues in constitutional and regulatory policy. His latest significant works are “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement” (Heartland Institute) and “Introducing ‘Article V 2.0:’ The Compact for a Balanced Budget”(Heartland Institute/Federalist Society). Prior to joining the Goldwater Institute, Dranias was an attorney with the Institute for Justice for three years and an attorney in private practice in Chicago for eight years.

In law school, Dranias served on the Loyola University Chicago Law Review, competed on Loyola’s National Labor Law Moot Court Team, and received various academic awards. He graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.A. in economics and philosophy.