A Call for Term Limits
Roger Sherman, a Founding Father of the U.S., wrote in 1788: “Nothing renders government more unstable than a frequent change of the persons that administer it.” Sorry, sir, but you have not been to the U.S. Capitol lately.
Voters favor congressional term limits (74% according to a liberal Brookings Institution study), and legislation has been introduced to add a term-limit amendment to our Constitution in almost all Congress sessions since 1943. This 115th Congress is no exception. Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) initiated such an amendment legislation in 2017, but there has been no action on his bill to limit House terms to six years and Senate terms to 12 years. He has opined that Congress has a 96% re-election rate but has a “lower approval rating than cockroaches, colonoscopies and Genghis Khan.”
This type of issue arises often in Congress – one that requires a two-thirds majority (290 votes) to pass a Constitutional amendment, which then must be ratified by 38 states. All of this is sham gamesmanship since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in May 1995 that states cannot impose term limits on elected Representatives and Senators. The concept of term limits is common within state and local government; 36 states impose limits for their governors, and 15 states limit their elected legislator time in office. Remember that of the 33 Constitution amendments contemplated by Congress, of which 27 were ratified by the states to become part of the law of our land, at no time has any state(s)-initiated change been enacted via the convention route.
But the views held by the public, which support term limits, are consistent. They are only rejected by a majority of Congressional aides, corporate lobbyists and federal bureaucrats as an opposition group, according to repeated analyses. Actually, polls of term-limit supporters favor three terms (versus up to six terms) in the House by a margin of 82% (versus 14% for six terms). A plurality of American citizens favors two-term limits.
A National Taxpayer Union study documented that the longer people serve in Congress, the bigger spenders and regulators they become. The bottom line, according to a CATO Institute study, is that “Americans believe that career legislators and professional politicians have created a gaping chasm between themselves and their government.” A Gallup poll from five years ago cited that 75% of Americans would vote for any term-limit law, and 11% cited this issue as their “first choice” to fix Washington.
There are several aids for remedy and, as always, all require that you do something. First, think about it and decide if this is an issue that you and your country should address. Get more information. One place to look is a non-profit organization dedicated to work on this topic: U.S. Term Limits, 1250 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20006, 202-261-3532 (www.termlimits.com).
Second, contact your state legislature via elected representative to assure that term limits are an accepted topic at a Constitutional Convention, which 36 states have agreed is needed and 44 have provisions for joining a convention call. Only two-thirds, or 34 states, are needed to call for such a meeting. This is all defined under Article V of the Constitution but has never been used as a means to change the nation’s Constitution. Every state except Hawaii has at one time or another called for a “Con-Con,” and 35 states have an active call today that has not been rescinded. You are urged to take these actions within your state.
In closing, one of the most significant events in our republic’s history occurred in Williamsburg Va., on Sept. 29, 2016, when 137 legislators from all 50 states met to discuss a Con-Con, something never before completed in our history. This meeting was motivated by thoughts of George Mason, another American Founder, who believed that no branch of government should have the power to determine the extent of its own power. The meeting was significant because it brings a term-limit solution closer to reality.