South Carolina GOP Senator Jim DeMint has just announced his introduction of a Constitutional Amendment limiting the amount of time a US Senator or Congressman can serve. He calls it “Term Limits for All” and proposes that Senators be limited to 2 terms and Congressmen to 3 terms.
The idea already has some weighty Senate co-sponsors in Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Brownback was even a GOP candidate for President in 2008. To actually become a part of the Constitution, however, it will need a few more Senate votes and then some. To pass, a Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote of approval in the House and Senate and must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Given the current make-up of the federal chambers and the dependency the Democrats have on long serving members such as Durbin, Frank, the late Senator Kennedy and so many more, it is highly unlikely these “public servants” will be swayed to legislate themselves off the gravy train.
Yet, for the country to move forward, it may be a necessary step. As DeMint notes in his presser,
Some say only long-serving, seasoned elites have the skills to lead the people, but that’s exactly what we have today and how do you think it’s working out for us? It wasn’t the ‘people’ who gave us a $12 trillion debt, an IRS tax code seven times longer than the Bible, over 1,700 departments of the federal government, trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, $100 trillion long-term shortfall in Social Security and Medicare, the Wall Street and auto bailouts, and the pending health care takeover.
This nation can no longer afford these entrenched men and women who enjoy lives of luxury wholly insulated from the consequences of their major policy failures.
Notably and importantly, the title of DeMint’s proposed amendment is indicative of his attitude. Term Limits for All means that DeMint supports term limits as a legislative or constitutional mandate but not self-imposed term limits chosen by individual legislators. Not only do Democrats never choose to do it, in DeMint’s words,
… demanding that reformers adopt self-imposed term limits is a recipe for self-defeat on this issue. 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.
The larger goals DeMint has in mind for his amendment are to
… increase legislative turnover, expand the field of candidates who run for office, and instill transparency and accountability in our public officials. By ratifying this amendment, we can end the tremendous advantage enjoyed by incumbents in Washington, break long-lasting ties to special interests and lobbyists, and transform Congress from the body of career politicians that it has become, to a chamber of true citizen legislators.
If the proposal has no chance of passing under the current Beltway leadership, a revolution of the sort some are predicting in November, 2010 may bring about a federal legislature more willing to ratify such a notion and **gasp** take the extraordinary step of putting the idea of Term Limits out in the public to be debated and weighed in on by, if not the People themselves, then at least legislators a whole lot closer to the people than the career federal politicians the amendment would turn out. Not only that but it gives challengers and incumbents alike a great campaign platform plank over the next few months.