CINCINNATI — The nation's governors, after three days of harmony, closed out their annual meeting today with an acrimonious debate over whether to change the method of amending the U.S. Constitution.
Present but not participating in that debate was Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee, who attended only the final session of the 80th meeting of the National Governors' Assn.
The Massachusetts governor sat silent while Govs. John H. Sununu of New Hampshire and Mario M. Cuomo of New York, Buddy Roemer of Lousiana and Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina dropped all pretense of harmony.
'Constitution on Its Head'
"You've turned the Constitution on its head," Roemer said at one point.
When Sununu, presiding over the final session of his year as NGA chairman, suggested to Cuomo that they debate the issue on television, the New York governor replied, "I know how eager you are for the (camera's) red light, Gov. Sununu."
"And I know how eager you are to avoid it," Sununu retorted.
There was minimal debate before the governors approved a call to Congress to consider amending the Constitution to provide that if 34 states agreed on a constitutional amendment, it would be submitted to Congress, which could block it by a two-thirds vote or send it back to the states for ratification.
'Divisive and Contentious'
But after the voice vote approving the proposal, Colorado Gov. Roy Romer called the proposal "divisive and contentious" and asked Sununu to refer it to the NGA executive committee for further consideration.
The discussion grew more heated when Cuomo, conceding that he had not objected before the vote, denounced the proposal as "a half-baked notion."
Cuomo had not attended the first three days of the conference and Campbell noted that "some of us have been here for the entire conference; some of us came in only for the last show."
The debate finally was resolved when Sununu suggested that all governors put their views of the proposal in writing and promised to attach them to the resolution when it was submitted to Congress.