Ask Your State Legislator for a Term Limits Convention

Lifetime Senators
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, according to Politico, is wondering whether it’s in his best interest to avoid seeking a third term in office because he’s unsure he can continue making an impact in Washington, D.C. If the report is true, Corker may do something many other politicians at the federal level don’t — term limit himself.

As you already know, the problem with career politicians is a pervasive one in Washington, D.C. Our elected officials seemingly keep their feet bolted to the floors of Capitol Hill because they believe no one else can do their jobs.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

When Arizona voters sent John McCain to the U.S. Senate 30 years ago Atari video games were still a hot commodity. When Thad Cochran of Mississippi assumed his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1978 disco was all the rage, Col. Sanders was still alive, and most people didn’t even own VCRs.

That’s right.

Cochran’s tenure in the Senate pre-dates and exceeds the mass market’s need for the VCR.

Of course, those men have nothing on Strom Thurmond or Robert Byrd, both of whom served roughly half a century in the U.S. Senate before they both eventually passed away.

These are only a tiny sample of the career politicians who lurk the halls of Congress decade after decade after decade. Longevity has its virtues, but in the District of Columbia longevity is sometimes toxic.

What have we gotten in exchange for sending career politicians to D.C. one election cycle after another?

They start out innocent enough, wanting to do well by their voters. Eventually, they get sucked into the vortex that is the Washington, D.C. beltway.

  • They spend more time with D.C. insiders — particularly the lobbyists — than they do their own constituents. They argue Washington’s case to the voters, instead of the other way around.
  • Members of Congress devote more time to fundraising than legislating and they ultimately lack the courage to do what’s best for their constituents and their nation.
  • Come reelection time, lobbyists shower incumbents with money, thus drowning out the voices of any opposing candidates.
  • Then….wait for it…90 percent of incumbents get re-elected.
  • They bail out the big banks.
  • They lather their wealthy friends with corporate welfare, courtesy of you, the taxpayer.

Despite all their experience, they cannot say they’ve got a good grip on what they’re doing. As of this month, our national debt, for instance, now exceeds $20 trillion.

As Linda Upmeyer, speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives put it, “Dysfunction in Washington puts our nation’s future at risk.”

That’s where term limits come into play.

Term limits

In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court said 23 states could not mandate term limits on members of Congress using state laws.

The Founding Fathers may not have seen the need to put term limits in the U.S. Constitution. Through that document, however, they did give us something called Article V. The Founders gave us Article V to have checks and balances on a Congress that had gotten too detached from the folks back home.

Two-thirds of the states can call for an Article V convention to enact term limits. By law, members of Congress must then arrange for a convention of people from all 50 states to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That amendment would deal with the subject of term limits, and term limits only. Everything at the convention must get done proper and by the book. Otherwise, according to Constitutional scholar, Robert G. Natelson, there are “too many politicians, lobbyists, and judges willing to seize on technical mistakes to block amendments they do not favor.”

After the convention, the drafted amendment goes back to the states, and it only becomes part of the Constitution after 38 states ratify it.

The Article V concept, however, does not come without its detractors
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Conspiracy talk in certain circles about a runaway convention, where people could radically alter the U.S. Constitution, is nothing more than a myth, like the bogeyman, created to frighten people, Natelson said.

Under our system, checks and balances, of course, are a two-way street. If any abuses at the convention were to occur, however unlikely, members of the judicial and legislative branches would put a dead stop to them. That’s a no-brainer.

Assuming members of those two branches of government did nothing — and that’s also a far-fetched scenario — then state legislatures would without a doubt refuse to ratify the amendment.

Term limits is a non-partisan issue. Term limits have a broad support of the people across party lines, and they are not a new concept.

George Washington favored them, as did Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Ronald Reagan backed them. Before leaving office last year, Barack Obama defended the concept of term limits as they pertained to a two-term presidency.

“Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas,” Obama said. “Someone with new energy and new insights will be good for my country.”

Obama could easily apply those words to members of Congress, and many Americans would no doubt agree with him.

The fight begins with you. Then it goes to members of the state General Assembly. But to make that happen U.S. Term Limits needs a grassroots coalition to talk to state legislators and make the case for our state to participate in an Article V convention.

As state director of U.S. Term Limits in Tennessee, I am at the disposal of anyone who wants to help.

If the Founders could communicate with us they would no doubt ask why we haven’t pursued this idea already.

Take a moment to send a short email to your state legislator. It’s quick and easy. We’ve done all the work. Just fill this out and the email from you will be sent to your representative.

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Christopher Butler is the Tennessee Director of U.S. Term Limits. Contact Chris at cbutler@termlimits.com
a version of this originally appeared in The Tennessee Star