Republicans Push for Constitutional Amendment on Term Limits


Sen. Ted Cruz and House Rep. Ron DeSantis are joining forces to push for a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on members of Congress. In a statement, Cruz said such an amendment would eliminate the current incentive system in Washington that encourages politicians to fly under the radar.

“The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people,” Cruz said. “It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.”

If passed, the amendment would hold House representatives to three two-year terms and senators to two six-year terms. The proposal matches a similar promise made by President-elect Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his campaign and is currently supported by several Republican senators, including Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson.

Cruz and DeSantis vowed to bring forth the amendment bill in early December with an op-ed in the Washington Post:

In an age in which partisan divisions seem intractable, it is remarkable that public support for congressional term limits is strong regardless of political affiliation — huge majorities of rank-and-file Republicans, Democrats and independents favor enacting this reform. Indeed, according to a Rasmussen survey conducted in October, 74 percent of likely voters support establishing term limits for all members of Congress. This is because the concept of a citizen legislature is integral to the model of our democratic republic.

Critics of term limit legislation say that elections themselves are enough of an obstacle to the kind of political careerism that Cruz and DeSantis are warning of. They claim that term limits would only strengthen the power of special interests and lobbyists, which is a stronger factor in Washington corruption.

But proponents argue that the absence of term limits encourages lawmakers to keep a low profile, obey the establishment leadership, and slowly but surely work their way up the D.C. ladder of success.

“Without term limits, the incentive for a typical member is to stay as long as possible to accumulate seniority on the way to a leadership post or committee chair,” Cruz and DeSantis wrote. “Going along to get along is a much surer path for career advancement than is challenging the way Washington does business.”

There’s no doubt that “safe,” decades-long seats on Capitol Hill contribute to ideological stagnation, but we don’t know to a certainty how term limits would affect the Washington culture. It may be a fix; it may cause more problems than it solves.

Thankfully, the Founders put in place a system that makes it extremely difficult and arduous to change the Constitution. Three-fourths of American state legislatures would have to approve the amendment for it to pass, and that’s no small feat. The idea is that only the best ideas would survive the obstacle course. If passing an amendment on term limits is a mistake, it won’t be one made in haste.

In the meantime, a national debate on how to fix what’s wrong with Washington would not be the worst use of our political attention.

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