United for Term Limits: Pressure & Pre-emption with A5 Amendment Proposal Convention
U.S. Representative Jared Golden and State Senator Rick Bennett team up to discuss the benefits of the states passing resolutions to call a national proposal convention to discuss a term limits on Congress amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Both agree that pressure is needed through the threat of an Article V Convention, otherwise Congress won’t propose a term limits amendment on itself. However, they will preemptively do so if they perceive that the states have enough momentum to hold a convention to set the specifics on how term limits would apply. There is historic precedent that Congress has proposed amendments that were initiated by state legislatures. Find out more by watching this insightful political dialog.
Sen. Bennett: Once a certain number of states get to threaten an Article V convention, Congress has historically said, “Okay, we hear you.”
“We hear you. We’re gonna make the amendment ourselves.” And then the Congressional path that Congressman Golden has been leading on will take root at that point. So, I think both of these are important to pursue at the same time,
Ken: Those of you who may not remember back in the 1990s, term limits was very popular around the country. 23 states passed laws, and most of them were at the ballot box to put term limits on their own congressional delegations. Maine did it as well twice, the people voted for this. Unfortunately what happened, those laws got challenged. They went all the way to the US Supreme Court. And in the decision, US term limits versus Thornton, the Supreme Court overturned all those state laws and ruled that the only way term limits can be imposed on members of Congress was through the amending provision of Article V. So for those of you that are not familiar with Article V, there’s two ways to propose amendments, either two-thirds of both Houses of Congress need to propose it and then send it out to the states for ratification. That’s how we’ve had all of our amendments proposed up to this point. The second option is if two-thirds of the state legislatures apply for a convention to propose an amendment, then the states can meet and propose that amendment and then the same ratification takes three quarters of the states to ratify.
So US term limits, we are advancing this both ways. We have an amendment in Congress that was introduced by Representative Ralph Norman from South Carolina, it’s HJR11. And I wanna thank the congressman for being one of the first co-sponsors of that amendment, that resolution, and also for signing our pledge. We have 130 members of Congress that have signed our pledge saying they will vote for this amendment. So we’re making some really good headway. What I primarily focus my time on is this second option, which is getting the state legislatures to propose this without the consent of Congress. What a beautiful thing.
We don’t need Congress to get this done. And so, we have… And this just came out yesterday, an Article V application was introduced by Senator Bennett here, I wanna thank you for taking the lead on that, and I’m very encouraged by what’s been happening. So this is an application specifically for one amendment, term limits for Congress. And so, we’re hoping that we’re gonna get down the field with this one. And my question to you, Senator, is why… First of all, why is this important, why do you think it’s important for the state legislatures to take this pathway?
Sen. Bennett: Because first and foremost, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Congress is gonna do this. It’s sort of antithetical to incumbent congressional interest by its nature. But part of the history that you didn’t relate to is that a lot of the amendments to the Constitution that had been adopted started as Article V initiatives because Congress is often loath to act until they’re kinda forced to on any of these big questions. And I think you can generate… There’s much more connection directly to the people and the state legislatures, and so you can generate passion and interest in the given issue at the state legislative level. And then what happens is that once a certain number of states get to threaten an Article V convention, Congress has historically said, “Okay, we hear you.”
“We hear you. We’re gonna make the amendment ourselves.” And then the Congressional path that Congressman Golden has been leading on will take root at that point. So, I think both of these are important to pursue at the same time, but they’re… Listen, I know that Congressmen Golden is very accessible. By the way, our congressional delegation in Maine, people don’t realize this, about how accessible all four members of our congressional delegation are.
It’s unique. I too talked to people from other states and they say, “You can actually get your congressmen on the phone?” And it’s not just because I’m a State Senator. It’s you talk to people all the time and I know that Senator Collins and the others do as well, they’re very accessible. And if you go to Washington to meet, chances are, you’re gonna meet your actual member of Congress, not just a staffer. And so, it’s not the same way in other states. [chuckle] They’re a little bit more removed, a little bit more protected, a little bit more bald off. And so, I think that it’s really important for people to speak and it’s great as you pointed out, Ken. It’s wonderful that we have this alternative path because they have worked historically in tandem, and I’m happy that, you know, can generate the interest in a formal way at the state legislative level to ask Congress to act, but also in failing that to act ourselves.
Ken: Yeah, that’s a great point. And actually I did a little research. 17 of our amendments have started through this process. So out of the 33 that had been proposed, 27 were ratified and became part of the Constitution. But 17 of them started through the states through the Article V application, the Bill of Rights being specifically the first time. Now, the difference between the application that we have and the amendment in Congress… I wanna explain the difference. The amendment in Congress HJR11 calls for limits, two terms for a US senator, so that would be two six-year terms for 12 years and three terms for a member of the House, so that would be three two-year terms.
Technically, one person could serve in Congress between both chambers, 18 years. Plenty of time to get the job done that the people sent you there to deal with. With the application that you’re sponsoring, that we did not specify the number of terms, we want the States to have that discussion when they meet. And so, that’s the path that we’re taking. And Congressman, I’m curious to get your intake on this, your view. With the pressure coming from the States… First of all, what do you think of that idea? And then secondly, what do you think’s gonna happen? Do you think Congress will typically take the path of least resistance and propose it themselves?
Rep. Golden: I don’t wanna demoralize anyone sitting around here right now.
I don’t think that the Congress is gonna do that, not this Congress, and not any future Congress. I think it’s highly unlikely without a significant amount of pressure coming up from the American people. And the easiest way to do that is through the state legislatures.
Ken: So if we get close the 34, what do you think will happen?
Rep. Golden: I tend to take the cynical view of Congress.
And nevertheless, I choose to go there, which I’ve come to the conclusion makes me very optimistic, the fact that I’m a secret optimist. But I don’t… I’ve got a lot of criticisms to offer of the United States Congress and how things are done. The cynical take is that if enough states are on the verge of calling a convention of states for the purpose of visiting the issue of term limits that the Congress might act to assume them while grandfathering their current selves in without term limits and let it take place with the passage of time. That sounds fairly accurate to me.