November 10th, 2009
07:59 PM ET
5 years ago

Senators seek to limit congressional service

'Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians,' Sen. Jim DeMint said in a statement.
'Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians,' Sen. Jim DeMint said in a statement.

Washington (CNN) - A handful of Republican senators have proposed a Constitutional amendment to limit the amount of time a person may serve in Congress.

Currently, there are no term limits for federal lawmakers, but Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, and several of his colleagues are advocating that service in the Senate be limited to 12 years, while lawmakers would only be allowed to serve 6 years in the House.

"Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians," DeMint said in a statement released by his office. "As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buyoff special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork – in short, amassing their own power."

Two-thirds of the House and Senate would need to approve the amendment - a stumbling block that short-circuited the idea 14 years ago. The new proposal echoes the Citizen Legislature Act, part of the original Contract with America proposed by Republicans before they won control of Congress in 1994. That measure, which would have allowed both senators and members of the House to serve just 12 years, won a majority in the Republican-controlled House in 1995, but failed because it did not meet the constitutionally-required two-thirds threshold.

"There is no question there are big obstacles in the way," said Philip Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, a non-partisan organization that advocates putting time restrictions in place. "It is difficult to pass a Constitutional amendment, however the goal is worthwhile and it is very important to the country. Also, if not now, when?"

This time around, proponents are not calling on lawmakers who believe in the idea to place a self-imposed term limit on themselves.

"If you are asking people to self limit, what might happen and what did happen, is that honorable politicians who made the pledge left office," while others did not, Blumel said. "The answer to the term limit supporter is not self limiting. It is the body as a whole."

DeMint, who is currently serving his first six-year term in the Senate, echoed Blumel's rational for dismissing self-imposed term limits.

"I want to be clear: demanding that reformers adopt self-imposed term limits is a recipe for self-defeat on this issue," DeMint said in Tuesday's statement. "We lost the battle for term limits after the 1994 Republican Contract with America because we forced our best advocates for reform to go home, while the big-spending career politicians waited them out. We must have term limits for all or term limits will never succeed. Only when we apply the same rules to all will we be able to enact vital bipartisan reforms."

One of the original co-sponsors of the amendment is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who is serving her third term in the Senate, but is expected to resign her seat to focus attention on a gubernatorial bid.

A spokesman for Hutchison said it is easy to square the fact that the Texas Republican is advocating for a cap of two terms even though she is currently in the middle of her third term.

"Throughout her career she has fought for term limits and continues to do so and that is why she is cosponsoring this bill," said Hutchison spokesman Jeff Sadosky. "But until it is passed, it would do a disservice to Texas and the people of Texas to do away with the seniority she has gained unless all the states and all of the senators hold themselves to the same standard."

The two other original cosponsors of the amendment are Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. Coburn, a first-term senator, is up for re-election to his second term in 2010, while Brownback is retiring next year after pledging to only serve two full terms in the Senate. As congressmen, both voted in favor of the GOP's Contract with America term limit proposal in 1995. Coburn, a longtime term limits supporter, retired from the House in 2000 after serving three terms based on that pledge.


Filed under: Congress • Extra • GOP • Jim DeMint • Kay Bailey Hutchison • Sam Brownback • Tom Coburn
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Michele

    Wow, a Republican idea I totally agree with. No more career politicians.

    November 10, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  2. JJ

    About time!

    November 10, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. Eleanor, Port Orchard, WA

    Well, if anyone knows about corruption in Congress, ie..."As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buyoff special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork – in short, amassing their own power."...it is most assuredly the GOP! Their specialties have always been all of the above. And by the way, I agree with term limits. But it will never, never happen. Not in our lifetime, anyway! Period.

    November 10, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  4. Loup Garou 782

    Three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate is enough for anyone to serve and should be the law. Put it on the ballot, I'll vote for it.

    November 10, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  5. charlie in Maine

    "Term Limits" a bad idea who's time has come.

    If you think lobbtist have too much power now just wait until they are the only ones with experience. This is a Trojan Hoosre of stupididty

    November 10, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. James of Colorado

    I just don't understand the hypocrisy that is the Republican party. They are all for freedom and states rights until they are against it. The federal government and more importantly, the senators who are supporting this initiative, have no power to do so as term limits are the responsibility of the states.

    This is just another move to deflect the media from the real issues; and CNN you played the pawn again. The Repub's have no plan for healthcare, they have no plan for the economy and they have no plan to end our war involvement. This is just more smoke and mirrors!

    November 10, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  7. Jayden,FL

    I actually agree with him.

    November 10, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  8. Tyler

    wow, actually a good idea from the GOP for once

    November 10, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  9. KEVIN

    This is Absolutely the only thing that will save this country.

    November 10, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  10. Jordan

    I disagree with the need for term limits. Congressmen/women are most vulnerable when they FIRST arrive in Washington, and don't yet know all the rules/ procedures. It is a very complicated job, and until on understands all of the ins and outs, on e is likely to get taken advantage of. Term limits would only serve to increase the number of people who are new to the system.
    I do understand the desire to bring "new blood" to the capitol, but when and where this happens is for the voters to decide, NOT some politician

    November 10, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  11. Sarah

    I think this is a good idea, but am surprised that it is coming from Republicans. Republicans proposed term limits with the Contract of Amereica in 1994 and many of them are still in Congress 15 years later. Also, aren't Republicans all for small government unless it relates to taking away people's personal rights?

    November 10, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  12. Richard L

    Obviously he didn't listen to Palin talking about what terrible things elected officials do when they are lame ducks. Republicans just can't get their act together.

    November 10, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  13. sc voter

    Finally, something I can agree on with republicans

    November 10, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  14. ObamaWillPayMyBills

    I like my Nanny state but it is time to kick the bums out and bring in new bums.

    November 10, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  15. JT

    No, Mr. DeMint. Nothing will change until we stop the way Washington and career politicians are funded by corporate "donations" (read: bribes).

    The error in judgment handed down by the Supreme Court back in the Nixon era that granted "Personhood" to corporations - thereby granting a non-living company the same Constitutional protections as living, breathing person - needs to be overturned. It's the only way to govern the affect money has on Congress.

    November 10, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  16. JR

    Sure the GOP wants term limits... until they regain control of the House and Senate again from the Democrats...

    November 10, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  17. muir

    There are already term limits in place. It is called an election.

    November 10, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. all the news that's fit to omit

    This is an excellent idea and it may help us get real folks in there that have actually worked for a living, paid a few bills and balanced a few home budgets and served in the military, REGULAR FOLKS.

    No more lifetime memberships because you have a (D) or an (R) next to your name or simple name recognition.

    I may make it 18 years for Senators and 10 for Congress as that sems reasonable.

    Regardless of the party, this is a GREAT IDEA that is long overdue.

    Republicans with more salient ideas, like their Healthcare bill that is a GOOD START.

    I like it.

    November 10, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  19. JonDie

    Obviously (but not surprisingly) Republicans don't believe that the American people can be trusted to elect their leaders.

    Back in the 1990s Republicans also pushed term limits because they thought that was the only way to gain control of Congress. Then Republicans took over in 1994...and quickly abandoned term limits.

    November 10, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. eolufemi

    Experience isn't a bad thing.

    If someone is bad for office then the people should vote them out. Congress shouldn't be limiting the people's options.

    November 10, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  21. OaklandTracy

    Term limits have been a disaster for California. Funny how the GOP hates America so much it wants to limit effective long-term politicians.

    November 10, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. Doug Rasmussen

    This idea is long overdue. 'Professional' politicians have long overstayed there usefulness in representing the people. They have become slaves of special interest groups and lobbyists. End this cycle of corruption.

    November 10, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  23. Nicole

    This is way overdue. I am an Independent and usually vote Democrat but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support Republcans in this measure. We need to take politicians out of politics. I completely agree with the article.

    November 10, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  24. Patriot

    BRAVO!

    Let's all get behind this!

    November 10, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. Gonzo in Houston

    Well waddaya know? I actually agree with Jim DeMint about something. We need both term limits and campaign spending limits, but I'm not holding my breath.

    November 10, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
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