In another installment of Rethuglicans not having a new idea in decades, the Raisin brings you the latest warmed-up same-old, same-old.
Washington (CNN) — A handful of Republican senators have proposed a constitutional amendment to limit how long 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 six years in the House.
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.
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, [Philip] Blumel [president of U.S. Term Limits, a nonpartisan organization that advocates putting time restrictions in place] 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 rationale for dismissing self-imposed term limits.
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 on a gubernatorial bid.
A spokesman for Hutchison said it is easy to square the fact that the Texas Republican is advocating 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 co-sponsoring 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 co-sponsors 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 serve only two full terms in the Senate [because he’s running for governor of Kansas]. 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.
From Charleston City Paper:
DeMint emphatically states that he will not impose a term limit on himself until the law is changed to term limit every member of Congress. But, he leaves plenty of fodder for any candidate seeking to unseat him in 2016 by calling for an end to the “era of permanent politicians.”
“As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buy off special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork — in short, amassing their own power,” he says.
Change in Washington has to come from “new leaders” instead of rearranging the deck chairs of a sinking ship, DeMint says, noting that term limits would “instill transparency and accountability” in congressional members.
“The nation can no longer afford these entrenched men and women who enjoy lives of luxury wholly insulated from the consequences of their major policy failure,” he says.
But (and it’s a big but), DeMint suggested he would not limit his own reign in the Senate to the two-term max he considers so vital.
“We must have term limits for all or term limits will never succeed,” he says. “Only when we apply the same rules to all will we be able to enact vital bipartisan reforms.”
It’s an ironic statement considering DeMint’s self-imposed ban on federal earmarks, funding for projects back home that are decided by lawmakers, sometimes without regard of the project’s needs or value. The two arguments are related — DeMint has often decried earmark spending as a wasteful tool wielded by long-time legislators.
This isn’t DeMint’s first attempt to circumvent Washington’s seniority-based leadership models. After defeat last November, DeMint called for sweeping changes within his own party, suggesting a frustration with being so low on the totem pole in relation to his fellow senators.
“Then, let’s end the seniority system that turns too many Republican outsiders into Washington insiders,” he said at the time. “This requires term limiting our conference leader and appropriations committee members, then choosing committee heads on merit, not seniority.”
From The Dallas Morning News:
WASHINGTON – Three-term Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has thrown her support behind a constitutional amendment that would cap Senate service at two terms.
The stance echoes her argument that Texas governors should also face term limits and that Gov. Rick Perry, in particular, has served too long already. But it contradicts her own career.
When she won the Senate seat in a special election in 1993, she pledged not to seek more than two six-year terms. She argued in 2006, however, that it made no sense for Texas to voluntarily give up the seniority and influence she had acquired.
The move drew snickers from the Perry camp.
“The senator has no credibility on the issue of terms limits, considering she broke her own promise to serve only two terms and then ran for a third,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner.
By the way, kids, the Contract of America (partially taken from St. Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address of 1985), which included term limits as part of its list of reforms was cooked up by:
Newt Gingrich (he’s on the train with Kay B-H, in case you couldn’t make out who that was) (GA)-served January 3, 1979 – January 25, 1999, 20 years
Robert Walker (PA)-served January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1997, 20 years
Dick Armey (TX)-served January 3, 1985 – January 3, 2003, 18 years
Bill Paxon (NY)-served January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1999 (He left after being forced out of his leadership role in the House after an abortive coup against Newt Gingrich.)
Tom Delay (TX)-served January 3, 1985 – June 9, 2006, 21 years (Resigned to pretty up for his mugshots and because polls indicated he would probably lose reelection. Besides, he was born to dance!)
John Boehner (OH)-assumed office January 3, 1991, 18 years and counting
and Jim Nussle (IA)-served January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007, 16 years (He lost his bid for reelection to Democrat, Chet Culver.)