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

Senators seek to limit congressional service

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="'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. We don't need this law....

    just votem them out.

    November 10, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. Elizabeth

    It is about time this happens there is a term limit for president why not Congress, the Repulicans are exactly right if we want change we need people to not be there forever.

    November 10, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  3. Andrea

    The problems with term limits are that termed out they become entrenched lobbyists and a great productive Senator could be excluded from reelection. Sounds like blather.

    November 10, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    Great Idea! But it'll never happen. The power hungry syndrome sets in very quickly. They never want to leave.

    November 10, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  5. twistedliberties

    Yes! Do it. Then we can have tort reform instead of socialism and public options!

    November 10, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  6. Mary A. Fiori

    Best idea I have ever heard of...too bad it will never be a reality. Here in Massachusetts where we tend to elect our Senators for life. All that power makes them think they are God-like.

    November 10, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  7. tigerakabj

    We already have limits to office - it's called ELECTIONS. If you don't do the job your constituents voted you in to do, you're out.

    Mr. Demint, that's why your party got your pink slips in 2006 and 2008 (more of your party will join the unemployment line next year).

    Despite your party's/MSM trumping of the STATE POLITICS Va and NJ elections (where a majority of exit polls said Obama had nothing to do with the decisions & the fact that Dems won in 2001 and 2005 in those states), you lost 5 special NATIONAL congressional elections in a row. One of them hasn't been blue since the CIVIL WAR. That would be the NY-23 election (conservative district) the MSM (especially Fox Noise) forgot to pontificate on and spin to the nth degree.

    Mr. Demint, you were looking in the mirror when you were talking about 2010 being all "Waterloo" like.

    November 10, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  8. Jaimon

    best idea out of the GOP in ages. we cannot allow out country to be betrayed by politicians who are perpetually campaigning.

    November 10, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  9. cwj

    There are approximately three Republicans who are sincere about this.
    Where was any of this talk when they held the Presidency and both houses of Congress?
    It comes up every time the Republicans are in the minority and then goes away if they get the majority.

    November 10, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  10. Jose

    Wow all of the sudden these people want to do this. Ironic the timing? I'm all for it but these people suggesting it don't know what being real and honest is all about. It is whatever is best for them. I think we should kick everyone out of office and get rid of the pollsters and the big mouth radio and tv personalities. Than we might get this country back for the people, by the people and of the people. Until then, the sheep will continue to be led to slaughter like there were over the past 8 years.

    November 10, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  11. Kelly

    This is something that I can support. Democrat, Republican or Independents should be jumping at this idea but of course we the people don't get to vote on this issue. Only the people that it will affect so we know that will never happen.

    November 10, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  12. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    Isn't Jim Demented the idiot who wants to kill healthcare reform for the purpose of "breaking" President Obama?

    Yeah...this guy sure has the "best interests" of the country in mind (sarcasm).

    BTW-If it wasn't for term limits, Bill Clinton would have easily been elected to a third term as President, and we wouldn't be in the mess that we're are in right now due to the boneheaded policies of Dick Cheney and "W".

    November 10, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  13. Perusing-through


    Yes, allow the Senators to serve a max of two terms for a total of 12-years; but have the Congressman (lower house) serve a max of six 2-year terms for a total of 12-years.

    November 10, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. gale godfrey

    I would have to agree and say about time. 12 years is plenty of time to learn and do the job right .instead of letting all lobbists rule our congress.congress would work for the people! knowing that it would no longer have to suck up to these people. or it could backfire. and most of the people elected would try and get rich real quick, and really mess up america. It would all depend on how honest our congress wants to be!

    November 10, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  15. edu

    This is the best way to make our congress accountable to us the electorate. Most of our congress members have lost touch with the people they are supposed to be representing and are instead pursuing the interests of lobbyst who fund their campaigns that enable them get re-elected.

    November 10, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  16. Kathy Isabell

    Senator Kennedy is gone. Are they afraid another of his greatness might appear?

    November 10, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  17. Gary, Sacramento

    This is the right idea – set reasonable term limits, and implement them twenty years in the future. The vested interests will never agree to endanger themselves in the near future. It seems like a long time, but if this approach had been taken, and succeeded, in 1994, we'd be almost there now. Twenty years is a short span in the history of our country.

    November 10, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  18. kevin

    ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa yeah like thats going to happen. fire them all. never mind term limits, fire all of these people, every last one of them.

    November 10, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  19. kevin

    please..................... lets get real. more wasting of our money, this is never going to happen

    November 10, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  20. Alfred

    Amen. I agree wholeheartedly with the Senator. Now that's doing something for the good of the country and not yourself...

    November 10, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. Mike

    Funny thing here is that if this was an idea of the Democrats then every single liberal in this country would be backing the idea but since it comes from Republicans they will hate it.
    What a crock.

    If Dems want to prove they really want to change Washington then back this plan and get this thing passed.

    Only when these crooks are limited in their terms can we actually get real change. Without term limites these politicians will keep lining their pockets with all the money that gets thrown at them.

    Democrats and Republicans alike need to be reigned in and shown the door when their time is up. This legislation is way long overdue but the Dems keep promising change but providing "politics as usual"

    November 10, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  22. FINALLY!

    God Bless America.

    November 10, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  23. Kim

    All in good faith.... the republicans only want to look good... I hope they choke on it.

    The party of lies bought and paid for by business. I would however, come back to the party if they promised term limits and lobby reform.

    November 10, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  24. Bpin

    Very seriously needed. Our Congress lifers just get too comfortable in office. Watch the general productivity of elected officials over time. It plummets. Plus, such legislation would help reduce the chances of fraud and lobbying efforts. Term limits would make Congress much more productive and much more valuable to the folks they represent. It will not happen though.

    November 10, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  25. Teena

    Oh please–term limits will not stop corruption.

    November 10, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
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