Despite a history of widespread support among voters of all political affiliations, congressional term limits have not aroused the passion that so many other issues have. Until now, that is. A recent poll by Pew showed that support for congressional term limits has risen to 87%, the highest ever recorded. To put this number in context, it rivals President Harry Truman’s popularity on VE Day. Even more importantly, those polled said that in a contest between a candidate who supported term limits for Congress and one who did not, it would be the deciding issue for them, meaning that voter intensity for term limits is now rivaling that of various hot-button issues.
What is causing this groundswell of support and intensity for term limits? One reason is the well-publicized instances of long-term senators publicly exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of cognitive decline. Once the world’s greatest deliberative body, the Senate now more resembles a high-end assisted-living facility. In addition, the daily dysfunction we see in Congress and the failure to offer fundamental solutions to the issues we face have led voters to realize we must do better.
The solution is congressional term limits. But members of Congress will never term-limit themselves, right?
Probably not. House Joint Resolution 11 , introduced recently by U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina with over 100 co-sponsors, which would have limited members of the House of Representatives to three terms (six years) and the Senate to two terms (12 years), was defeated by a committee vote of 19-17. In the Senate, Senate Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, is stalled with opposition by both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
If Congress is going to sit on its hands, what can be done? One way forward is for the states to address the issue. But how?
The answer is by calling for a limited constitutional convention to adopt a congressional term limits amendment. When enough states request a convention to add a term limits amendment to the Constitution, Congress is bypassed and the amendment can be proposed by the states for ratification.
Six states, – Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and West Virginia – have called for a limited convention to propose a congressional term limits amendment to the Constitution. Tennessee could be next.
In the Tennessee General Assembly, House Joint Resolution 5 would have Tennessee join the call. The measure overwhelmingly passed the state House earlier this year with Rep. Chris Todd as sponsor. State Sen. Richard Briggs of Knoxville recently announced that he will serve as the Senate sponsor of House Joint Resolution 5.
If passed, Tennessee will go on record calling for an amendment convention to discuss and, if agreed upon, adopt an amendment to set congressional term limits that would then need to be approved by three-fourths of the states. With overwhelming support among voters, congressional term limits will become a reality. Members of Congress will then be confronted with a dilemma: do the right thing and propose their own term limits or sit idly by and watch the states do it for them.
Setting congressional term limits would take power away from the Washington insiders and lobbyists and put it back where it belongs – with the citizens of the states. For far too long, we have seen how staying in office for decades leads some of our elected officials to forget they serve the voters, not the entrenched special interests that reside in Washington. As Benjamin Franklin (who supported term limits) aptly said, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors … For the former to return among the latter does not degrade, but promote them.”
Most importantly, term limits would lead to a Congress that is responsive to the issues facing everyday Americans. This would lead to real solutions for our nation, not the chaos we see daily in Washington, D.C.
Setting congressional term limits will be a step toward ending the political circus that has polarized and divided our nation. It will restore balance in our electoral process and once again empower voters. Term limits will compel Congress to come up with actual solutions to the challenges our nation faces, instead of meekly going along to get along, which is burying us under a mountain of debt. Now more than ever before, we need congressional term limits.
Let’s put the Volunteer State on record for congressional term limits.
Jacobs, Glenn. “Congress needs term limits. Tennessee should join the call”. Knoxville News Sentinel. 16 Nov. 2023. Op-ed.