Trump Calls For Congressional Term Limits

800px-Capitol_Building_Full_ViewRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump called this week for term limits for congressional members as part of his pledge “to drain the swamp.” He would limit members of the House of Representatives to a maximum of six years and limit Senators to 12 years in office. I have long opposed such term limits as curtailing the power of voters to choose their own leaders while undermining the effectiveness of Congress, particularly in the House.

I served for a short time as the constitutional consultation to the Florida House of Representatives, which was subject to such term limits. The experience deepened my opposition to term limits. Most members have little knowledge or experience in governing. The result is that lobbyists play a dominant role in the drafting and passing of legislation. As soon as a member gathers experience, they have to leave. Even when a member is successful and popular, his or her constituents are denied the ability to keep their representative.

While Trump insists that “Decades of special interests, decades of failure must come to an end,” term limits increase the power of special interests and lobbyists who hold the experience in crafting and passing legislation. More importantly, it should be up to the voters whether a member stays or goes as a matter of representative democracy. These arguments have been made in campaigns against incumbents. I have previously argued argued that there are reforms that would help loosen the grip of incumbents. These reforms included but were not limited to the following:

Remove barriers to third parties. Independent and third-party candidates currently face an array of barriers, including registration rules and petition requirements, that should be removed. Moreover, we should require a federally funded electronic forum for qualified federal candidates to post their positions and material for voters. And in races for national office, all candidates on the ballot in the general election should submit to a minimum of three (for Congress) or five (for the presidency) debates that would be funded and made publicly available by the government.

End the practice of gerrymandering. We need a constitutional amendment requiring uniformity in districts to end gerrymandering, in which politicians distort the shape of districts to link pockets of Democratic or Republican voters. Districts should have geographic continuity, and should be established by a standard formula applied by an independent federal agency.

Change the primary system. The principal reason incumbents are returned to power is that voters have little choice in the general election. Incumbents tend to control their primaries, and in many districts electing the candidate of the opposing party is not an option. Under one alternative system that could be mandated in a constitutional amendment for all states, the two top vote-getters would go into the general election regardless of their party. If both of the top candidates are Republican or Democratic, so be it. All primaries would be open to allow voters to cast their ballots for any candidate appearing in the primary.

The change of the primary system would have particular impact on incumbents but actually increase the voice rather than limit the power of voters.

I also fail to see why House members would be limited to only six years as opposed to twelve years — the same as the Senate. Obviously, the terms reflect three terms under each of the houses but it should be the years of service not the terms that drive such limits. Six years is very little time for a House member who has to campaign heavily and continually for the first couple terms. That leaves little time to develop expertise and experience in actual government. Even if one were to support term limits, these specific limits are problematic in my view.

Despite my disagreement on term limits, some of Trump’s other suggestions would be helpful. He proposed re-instituted a ban to prevent Executive Branch officials from lobbying the government for five years after they leave government service and a similar five year ban for members and their staff. That would be an improvement.

102 thoughts on “Trump Calls For Congressional Term Limits”

  1. The states should be free to choose their representatives. This isn’t a federal issue.

    1. The constitution does specify requirements for election to federal office. The question is whether or not the state legislatures can elaborate on those requirements.

  2. Wow, even the Hoover Institute is against Trump. They want a globalist agenda foisted on this nation through the TPP and HRC’s neo con / neo lib politices. I had to read several papers written by Condi Rice when I was doing my IR classes. One stands out in that she said we have more to fear from those who have less to lose. I think that’s the US electorate. We have nothing to lose by voting for Trump (and in my case Stein).

  3. God know we need to get rid of John McCain. Our state legislature has term limits but the term limits for the federal seats were overturn since the House and Senate control their membership. We tried.

    1. The Congress has the discretion to determine the jurisdiction of federal courts. It’s an enumerated power. Strip them of jurisdiction via federal legislation. Call John Roberts in and tell him they’re free to try to enjoin this legislation. Tell him that the funds which pay his staff and that of everyone else that building will be impounded, along with the funds for the court’s plant and equipment and any device they use to communicate with the U.S. Marshall Service. If he complains that the constitution doesn’t allow the compensation of judges to be reduced, tell him any judge appointed during the interval running from 1992 through 2004 or after 2008 will be henceforth paid in potatoes delivered once a year to the front door of their home.

  4. When the Tea Party went to Washington in 2010, not one of them was made chairman of any committee by the Republicans. They helped the Republicans take back the house and that was it. This is probably where Trump got a lot of his support.

    1. The congress is filled with crazy old white men that have said outrageous things and have been there for decades. Curiously, a black man that has been there for only seven years gets chosen for the example.

  5. I agree – let the voters decide re term limits for Congress. Get rid of Citizens United. And ban any government official from working for K Street. This includes military – in Jim Webb’s excellent book “A Time to Fight” he pointed out how many high ranking military officers retire and go through the revolving door to lobby for the military industrial complex.

    1. Get rid of Citizens United.

      Autumn thinks the New York Times Company is an unincorporated partnership of Sulzberger cousins.

  6. The cut off age is 35 years old for a lot federal employment. And the retirement age is 55!

  7. I’ve never understood the support in the supposedly anti-federalist Republican party for having the Federal Constitution dictate to the States how to select their representation in the Federal government…

  8. My proposed solution:
    1. All members of congress, and their staff, are subject in full to all laws passed.
    2. All members of congress must prepare their own tax returns, without professional help. (Turbo Tax is allowed).

  9. Government Administration is not supposed to be a career position. Two terms are plenty.

    1. No, civil servants are properly career positions. Elected offices are not and patronage positions are not.

  10. I’m for anyone who at least starts the conversation. I don’t really care how “congressional churn” is created. Let’s at least start moving in that direction and get rid of the career politicians who suck the life and money out of the people.

    1. Excellent cartoon Squeek! =) I want to share it with my email peeps – how can I do that? Your friend, partial Luddite =)

      1. Oh, it is easy! Just position your cursor over the image, and right click it. Pick either “save the image” if you want to keep it, or “copy image location” whichever applies. Then, in your email, right click and hit paste. If one doesn’t work, then do the other.

        Plus, I got a kewl book in today, called Lustmord by Maria Tatar, about sexual violence in Weimar Germany! Which is starting out in a great fashion. I know you like German stuff.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. thanx Squeek! Yep, I do like “German stuff” overall while I am totally dismayed at how Mama Merkel has caved to the globalists.

      1. She didn’t best him. She just lives in her world, of silly and vapid stuff, and he is used to doing real things like building buildings. Have you ever realized how much of the Talking Head World is people being outraged about things people say???

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

      2. There’s no particular reason to believe Megyn Kelly is a ‘strong woman’, and she wasn’t ‘strong’ enough to keep her first marriage intact. She’s just someone with the eccentric collection of skills and properties which make you bankable in broadcasting, rather like Billy Bush. One thing you can say in her favor is that she’s not a quondam communications major. She’s a lapsed lawyer. Another is that she has a larger complement of children than you’d expect for someone in her personal circumstances.

        Her grooming is atrocious: makeup applied with a trowel, dyed hair with Crisco combed through it, wretched haricut…

        Pro tip: The term ‘strong’ when applied to a woman is commonly a euphemism. It means ‘loud’.

        1. Fortunately Megyn got from New York where women apply makeup with a ‘trowel’, as you put it, to Chicago where she learned how to properly speak with good diction.
          BTW, I always used the term ‘plaster knife’, but why quibble? The result is the same.

          1. Been a requirement to work on Fox News but now that Ailes has gone maybe things will normalize.

  11. Squeaky, I agree with you. Politicians will not fix what’s wrong. It will take an event or series of events to make us do what’s right for this country.

  12. We have some very fundamental problems that have lead us to our current situation. We no longer have a shared vision for the United States. We did have (still do but no one seems to care) a vision that:

    “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that
    among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    That was America’s founding vision statement. It’s a vision statement because at the time of our founding, we were not there yet. We had a gap between what we were and what we wanted to become. So we created a form of government specifically to lead us towards that vision. “In order to form a more perfect Union” begins to describe the mission of government; what we do, how we do it and who do we do it for.

    What we’ve lost over the last 240 years is a direct result of the citizens replacing the shared vision of our founding with the divisive vision of each successive administration. Where we were once majority stockholders in a corporation designed to reach that original vision, we’ve now become a land of majority stakeholders whose only concern is what they can get out of each successive regime. Each election cycle is a race to sell a vision to as many different stakeholders as possible. Free college education, check. Free healthcare, check. Jobs, check. Middle-class tax cuts, check. Increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations, check. The list can go on but where will this leave us as a nation IF we follow these strategies? Will we be a nation where we are secured equally in our life, liberty and property? Will we have the liberty to pursue our own happiness without infringing the rights of others to do the same?

    Our government’s mission was NEVER to lead us to become a perfect union. There is no such thing. Show me the candidate that wants the original vision for the United States and I’ll show you a candidate that WILL NOT crack >30% of the vote. That is a reflection on the three-legged stool of voter ignorance, apathy and dependence. Term limits will do nothing to fix that.

    1. Damn straight! Plus, the status quo works for most college-educated white people, particularly the older ones. Only a major disaster like a meteor strike, super-volcano, long term harsh financial depression, massive solar flare, or nuke strike on major cities will knock off one of the three legs of the stool.

      Societies in decline, will tend to stay in decline, unless acted upon by an outside force. I think somebody famous said that.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  13. Citizens United will soon be reversed by the new Clinton appointees. She will probably get 2.

    1. Ultimately, any sense on the part of the opposition that you merit a certain immunity drips away when you’re always engaging shenanigans (which, of course, Democratic Party lawfare artists are). As of now, everyone knows that the appellate judiciary are frauds. The question is when that realization catches up with you guys. It won’t be sweet.

      1. You may recall that Citizens United is a non-profit that produced a film critical of Hillary. The FEC deemed it a violation of campaign finance laws. CU took the case to court – eventually SCOTUS ruled in their favor. Hillary favors only those productions/ads/etc. which support her, and nothing else.

  14. Federally funded elections. Overturn Citizens United. Stop supporting members of the Bush/Clinton syndicates.

    1. How about only allowing individuals to contribute to candidates or causes; no businesses, no unions, etc.? Also place limits on what any one individual can contribute.

      1. Proscription of corporate contributions has been the law re federal elections since 1908, IIRC. The contribution limits were attempted in 1974 legislation. They seem to have exacerbated the problem of a deficit of competition, have implications re the 1st Amendment, and induced a chanelling of contributions through rent-seeker lobbies who could contribute more than individuals.

    2. ‘overturn citizens united’ is the rallying cry of partisan Democrats who think they should be able to engage in collective action and their opponents should not.

  15. Put it up to a national referendum and let the people decide if they want term limits for elected officials.

    1. A national referendum is an excellent idea, democracy at its best, but that would bypass all the special interests, lobbyists, power brokers, backroom dealers and thieves. Our Congress would never allow this to happen anymore than they would allow term limits.
      A convention of the states to amend the constitution seems to be the only route, but the thieves will fight that to the last ditch, even if they have to do it behind the scenes.
      A national referendum could be used to establish any number of measures which are opposed by power brokers but desired by the people. Immigration policy is only one example.

  16. Guys like Senator Ted Kennedy & Senator Frank Lautenberg would rather die in office.
    Me, retire & enjoy life with family & friends. And leave the cares of the world to someone else.

  17. Change the primary system. The principal reason incumbents are returned to power is that voters have little choice in the general election. Incumbents tend to control their primaries, and in many districts electing the candidate of the opposing party is not an option. Under one alternative system that could be mandated in a constitutional amendment for all states, the two top vote-getters would go into the general election regardless of their party. If

    No, have ordinal balloting and the alternate vote. You can have a party nomination process if your party registration figures are within a certain ratio and a general petition process if one well exceeds the other in a given constituency.

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