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. M Smith

    Just because you (Republicans) lost in the last major election cycle, doesn't mean you should mess with the Constitution. Get over it,. Also don't worry about the next major election cycle. The education system has demised so much that alot of people don't understand how government works. They voted for Obama (I voted for Obama) with the expectation of instant change. He never promised that. Many of us are in financial distress. We must have the patience to let the system work. which includes staying involved. and contacting our representatives.

    November 10, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Elizabeth

    I strongly support the idea of term limits! I think, however, that before dealing with that issue, the most important benefit the Senate and House can give the American people is to include THEMSELVES in whatever Health Care Reform they pass and the President signs. Unless the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all other public officials put themselves on the line with the rest of us, health insurance and health care will always be a two-tierd system (or three-tierd system, if Medicaid continues as it is). Why should our "PUBLIC SERVANTS" have a more generous health insurance program than the rest of us? Put your and your families' lives (and health care) on the line, and make us all equal! Then we, the American people, will believe that you truly are working FOR us!

    November 10, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  3. daniel

    the best news i've herd since the election!!!

    November 10, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. John

    It's about time someone came to their senses. Doubt lawmakers would approve as they have a caddilac of a retirement plan and want to stay on the gravy train.

    November 10, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  5. Adam from Ohio

    Limit the way campaigns are financed, not the number of terms that may be served. The voters have the ultimate choice–and if the voters are happy with their senator or representative, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them putting that person back into office. This measure is just useless grandstanding.

    November 10, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  6. mypitts2

    Republicans are the kings of wasting everybody's time.

    November 10, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  7. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    I don't see a problem with this. While we are at it, can we amend the constitution so if more then x% of our military is out fighting overseas, we institute the draft and start a war tax? Maybe then the population will pay attention to who we are bombing and why.

    November 10, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  8. David G

    With all due respect, it should be the right of citizens to determine how long somebody can serve, not congress.

    November 10, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. Roger

    Does this mean we can get rid of Nancy P. and Harry R. WOW!!

    November 10, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. New Yorker

    Of course democrats don't want term limits. They just want all the power they can get so they can meet their primary goal of destroying this country. We can all thank them for supporting this "health care" bill which would REQUIRE everyone to buy health insurance. This outrageous assault on our freedom goes over the top and every member of the house who voted for it should have be turned out of the House immediately. Oh, if only America would wake up to the reality of what is going on. How many people have died to protect our freedom? and the liberals are quickly destroying it.
    CNN, you haven't posted one of my comments in a long time; how about this one...please.

    November 10, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Denverguy

    the first to go should be Demint, he is the worst senator S.C. has had since the civil war. idiots in power what an idea!!

    November 10, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. Dale

    Absolutely......... Term limits would remove a lot of corruption. Amen,,, get it done. It would be good for both parties.

    November 10, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. JSM

    This would be welcome news for all political beliefs. With term limits career politicians would be a thing of the past and perhaps we could get a House & Senate that exists to serve the people....

    November 10, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  14. TangledThorns

    Why there is no term limits on Congress is beyond me. Term limits would lower corruption.

    November 10, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  15. Dan

    A "No Brainer"! Get the bums and their seperate health care and pension funds out of MY pockets!

    November 10, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  16. GOPBslapper

    Now all of a sudden, Demint who is poised to enter his 12th year in Congress wants term limits? Lead by example Demint, resign tomorrow. Funny, I don't think he walks the walk he talks........just another GOP Hypocrite!

    November 10, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. Jon

    12 – 24 years sounds like a good limit. And it should be the same for senate and house.

    November 10, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  18. Lou

    Excellent idea! I have been saying the same thing for a long, long, time. Put term limits on senators and reps and maybe some changes will happen in this country when it is no longer about butt kissing in order to get re-elected.

    November 10, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  19. Debi

    Term limits are up every 4 – 6 years when the lawmakers are up for reelection.

    It is amazing how republicans all the sudden are pushing term limits now that they are not in power.

    I say we limit the terms of Republican'ts.

    November 10, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  20. Sandy

    FINALLY THIS IS WHAT AMERICA NEEDS!!!!!! We don't need any more Kennedys in at 40 and out at 80. They stay in washington all week PARTY and take care of the good old boys.! Then go home to thier mansions and yachts. They have no clue what middle class America has to endure. GET RID OF THEM!

    November 10, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  21. Bill of Florida

    The motivation behind this recent push is obvious. They want to get rid of Nancy Pelosi and the popular democrats. They haven't been able to do it by way of the vote, so now they are proposing to do it through a new law. How well do term limits work? Haven't we already enacted term limits in the past? I seem to recall something about term limits several years back. I think it was during the Clinton Administration. What happened to those term limits?

    November 10, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  22. Jonny

    This is a purely political desperate move by the Republicans. Pathetic.

    November 10, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  23. Jon from Maryland

    My question is what is the incentive to do something right, something your constituents want or need, or is in the long term interest, if you can't reap the rewards because you are no longer in office. We all know how long congressional action takes, what would truly get passed if members had to to spend their first two years learning the process, the next two years becoming experts in an issue area, and the next two years trying to get maybe one bill this really the answer? What will this really accomplish?

    November 10, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  24. Wnbresn

    All politics are local including the right to be able to re-elect who we want in office as often as we want them in office. Usually the party in the minority always comes up with this idea of term limits when it See's a bleak future for itself because they know a popular candidate will be elected over and over again.. When the Dems proposed term limits years ago some of the very Republicans calling for them now were totally against them..

    November 10, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  25. philip maloof

    I am glad to see that Senator Jim DeMint is sensitive to the burdens on the middle class taxpayer and hope that term limits of members of congress will become law asap. Congress can not efficiently manage our public assets and similarly operate our country when some of those members behave as if it is their birthright to live and die in Congress.

    Philip Maloof

    November 10, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
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