Speaker 2: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Phil Blumel: The new session of Congress has begun and the first bills have been introduced. Along with a new democratic majority, we have a new term limited speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who promised to term limit herself in order to reclaim that position. But is there any appetite in this Congress for real term limits? Maybe so. US term limits executive director Nick Tomboulides has some reason to think that there is. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hey Phil?
Phil Blumel: So we have some big news today, let’s hear it.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, absolutely. This is a momentous day for the term limits movement. The US Term Limits Constitutional Amendment was filed yesterday, the first day of the 116th Congress in both the US House and the US Senate.
Phil Blumel: Great.
NIck Tomboulides: That is a constitutional amendment that if passed by the Congress with a two thirds vote and ratified by three quarters of the states, would limit members of the US House to three terms, so six years, and limit members of the Senate to two terms, 12 years. It is-
Phil Blumel: Fantastic.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s great news, and it brings us one step closer to our goal of achieving term limits on Congress.
Phil Blumel: Great. Who are the sponsors in the House and in the Senate?
Nick Tomboulides: In the House, it was Congressman Francis Rooney, who represents Florida’s 19th District. Congressman Rooney has a very solid track record on the term limits issue. And in the Senate, it was former Presidential candidate and Texas Senator, Ted Cruz.
Phil Blumel: Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: And I have a quote here from Cruz. When he dropped the resolution, he said, “For too long, members of Congress have abused their power and ignored the will of the American people. Term limits offer a solution to the brokenness we see in Washington. It is long past time for Congress to hold itself accountable. I urge my colleagues to submit this amendment to the states for speedy ratification.”
Phil Blumel: All right.
Nick Tomboulides: I could not agree more.
Phil Blumel: That’s great. So now as we’ve been talking about on these podcasts now for several months, we have 61 or 62 now members of the Congress, House and Senate who have signed a pledge saying that they are going to cosponsor this bill. Have any done so already?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes. We have 63 signers between the House and Senate. The House version, HJR 20, House Joint Resolution 20, actually opened with 13 cosponsors, and the Senate version has opened with two cosponsors.
Phil Blumel: Okay, that’s on day one.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, that’s just day one. In the coming weeks ahead, you will see lots more Congress members jumping on to these bills and putting forward a very strong effort.
Phil Blumel: And we’ll follow up with the pledge signers and remind them. If history is any guide, there won’t be too much problem getting people on the bill. It might be hard to get people to sign the pledge sometimes, but getting them to fulfill their obligation of the pledge, we’ve been pretty successful at over time.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, keep in mind-
Phil Blumel: Sounds good.
Nick Tomboulides: Look at our resolution number. We’re at House Joint Resolution 20, which means that there were at least 19 other joint resolutions dropped on the first day of session. So every member of Congress, especially the newcomers are drinking from fire hoses right now. They’re just absolutely swamped, very busy, it’s hard for any one issue to captivate their attention for too long. But this is a very strong early showing for term limits, and it’s an encouraging sign.
Phil Blumel: Okay, that’s great. All right, the bill is introduced to both houses, we’ve got sponsors, we’re starting to get the cosponsors. What’s the next step?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, we need to build this piece of legislation up. You cannot have too many cosponsors. You cannot move term limits forward quickly enough. This is an issue that’s critically important to over 80% of the American people, so we need to get this through its committees, onto the floor for a vote, and the only way we can do that is by putting pressure on our own members of Congress. So what I would suggest for you to do and all of our listeners is to go to TermLimits.com/legislators, L-E-G-I-S-L-A-T-O-R-S, TermLimits.com/legislators, and use our legislator look-up tool. It’s very simple. You punch in your zip code, it will tell you who your members of Congress are, it will tell you what their record on term limits is, and it will have a contact button so that you can reach out to them and ask them to support HJR 20 and SJR 1.
Phil Blumel: Okay, and that information is there at the site.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, and we’ll put it in our show notes, also.
Phil Blumel: Great. So our listeners have some action to take. Within the Congress now, the very first step for any new bill or resolution is to be heard at some committee level and go through this committee process before it can get to the floor for a full vote. Do we have any indication yet that these bills are going to be heard in a committee or what committee might hear them?
Nick Tomboulides: Both of them have been assigned to the Judiciary Committees and their respective chambers. We’re still waiting to see what’s going to happen on the House side, but on the Senate side, there are some very positive signs. Normally, the fix is in against term limits from the very start, but in this case, the fix might be in on our side because the chairman of the subcommittee for the Judiciary, where this bill would most likely have to start, is Ted Cruz. So the sponsor of our term limits bill is also the chairman of the subcommittee, and that is just a great stroke of luck for us. It dramatically increases our odds of getting a hearing in the near future.
Chuck Woolery: Hi, I’m Chuck Woolery. I’ve spent my adult life in front of the camera with shows like Wheel of Fortune, Love Connection, Scrabble, Greed, and others. Our goal is to persuade the US Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to limit the length of time they can be in office. Now, everywhere I go, people are asking me why I got involved with this. Some people are speculating that I have an eye on political office or they think I’m trying to advance my career. Honestly, I have absolutely no interest in running for any office, and believe me, going against the political correctness of Hollywood is anything but a career move. I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do.
Chuck Woolery: We have moved so far away from what our founding fathers had intended. They believed that people would go to Congress, sacrifice a couple of years for their country, help make laws, and then return home to live under those laws. Now, I ask you, do you think members of Congress are sacrificing today? Not hardly. The authors of our constitution knew we would find imperfections and that we would need to amend it from time to time. Well, I think this is such a time. It’s time to get out of the darkness, to learn the truth about Congress and hit the restart button on a broken and corrupt system. It’s time to restart Congress.
Phil Blumel: I want to point out a couple things about the idea about trying to get Congress to pass term limits on itself. We get these bills introduced to Congress, and we have in the past as well. We do our best, we collect these pledges and we get cosponsors, and each time we make some progress in pushing these bills. But I think it’s important to look at the entire strategy of why this is really important because I know that there’s probably somebody listening right now that says, “Oh, come on. They’re not going to term limits on themselves.” And we recognize that. We’ve mentioned that on this podcast many times. But it is true, without enormous pressure, there is little chance that they’re going to do so, and we know that because they haven’t already. They know what the polls are, they know people want this and they haven’t done it. But remember, this is occurring at the same time as our strategy to push a term limits convention in the states. So we have already had several states officially call for a term limits convention, and of course more will probably follow this year, as we expect.
Phil Blumel: So with more and more states calling for an amendment writing convention for the issue of term limits, at the same time that we have the term limits bills in the US Congress with an increasing number of cosponsors and a lot of pressure coming from the citizens, you can see how the pressure is building on Congress to act. And the more states we get to call for a convention, the more that pressure is going to build, and the more important that these bills that have just been introduced are going to be.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, that’s exactly right. This is a very nuanced, multi-part campaign, and it involves different layers. We’re building leverage from state legislators to put pressure on Congress. We’re also very carefully watching the courts. We’ve discussed this in previous podcasts. We’re watching the courts because if the courts get reshaped, that may overturn the 1995 decision that stopped states from directly limiting their own Congressmen. So there are all these different levees out there just ready to break. Scott Murphy, who wrote the Term Limits Revolution book, told me recently, “The opposition to term limits has to beat us every single time. We just have to win once to make this happen.”
Phil Blumel: Excellent point.
Nick Tomboulides: We just have to win once, and the Cruz bill, the Rooney bill, it’s undeniably a force multiplier. It is part of the strategy to make it a reality for the American people and just bring us one step closer.
Phil Blumel: When we talk about the convention, which really is the primary pressure that we’re putting on Congress, one thing that comes up regarding Congress is that it could very well be that under the pressure of a looming term limits convention, that Congress, seeing the writing on the wall, will take this action. So even though in shorthand, we say, “Oh, Congress will never pass term limits on themselves.”, it’s possible they might, and there’s some historical reason to think that. Recall that back in the early 1900s, when there was a push for direct election of US Senators, that naturally, the existing US Senators who had all been appointed by the state legislators and not elected by popular vote, were very much against the idea of popular election. Why? Because they would all lose their jobs. It’s very similar to the problem of trying to get lawmakers to pass term limits. But eventually, the Senate did vote with two thirds, along with the House, two thirds, to call for a constitutional amendment for direct election of Senators. And why? Because roughly 30 states called for an amendment writing convention under Article 5, and they saw the writing on the wall, so they did it themselves. There is historical precedent for what we’re trying to do.
Nick Tomboulides: And it’s not just that amendment. If you go back in history, you see that there have been other amendments that have originated as convention organizing efforts. The 21st Amendment and the 22nd Amendment for repeal of prohibition and presidential term limits respectively, they both had their genesis in convention organizing at the state level. So historically, the convention doesn’t happen, but the convention effort paints the writing on the wall, and then Congress subsequently responds by proposing an amendment of its own. So when that happens, when we get to that moment in time, when Congress goes to preempt the states, you need a legislative vehicle in place to drive the process forward. That is the Cruz and Rooney amendment. That is why it is here. It is the legislative vehicle that we may need to drive to the promised land. I’m not holding my breath and waiting for Congress to act. I trust politicians less than used car salesmen, but I think as part of this two track effort with the states and the federal government putting pressure on each other, some levee is going to break and we’re going to get this done.
Phil Blumel: That’s right. We have citizens putting pressure on Congress right now, now that these bills are in, and we have citizens putting pressure on state legislators to vote for the term limits bill, we’re going to do it. If state after state calls for a term limits convention, we keep these bills in Congress and they keep hearing from us, it’s going to happen. It’s all a matter of the amount of effort that we want to take as citizens to insist that it happens, because it will. It’s a matter of attrition, and we’re going to get to a point where we hit a critical mass, and we’re going to break through, and the politicians are not going to be able to refuse us any longer.
Speaker 5: This is a public service announcement.
Speaker 6: On July 10th, 2013, Lawrence Lessig, along with several Massachusetts state representatives and a handful of wolf pack volunteers went to the Boston State House to explain how an Article 5 convention of the states can bring free and fair elections to America.
Lawrence Lessig: When the framers drafted the first draft of the Constitution, its provision for amending the Constitution said Congress had the power to propose amendments to the Constitution. And then an obvious question was raised. What if Congress is the problem? If Congress is the problem, we can’t count on Congress to propose the reforms necessary to fix it. This was an obvious problem, and the framers quickly changed the draft of the Constitution to include the essential backup to protect the liberty and the democracy which they were creating, and the essential backup was you. It was the state legislators because what the framers did in Article 5 is they created a second path to amending the Constitution. And that path said that if state legislators believe it’s time to act outside of the ordinary process, they have the power to compel Congress to create an Article 5 convention. Now, I’m a law professor, so I’m going to quibble with the way people have spoken about this convention. This is not a constitutional convention. This is not the sort of convention that has the power to propose a Constitution or to change the Constitution. That’s what we mean by a ‘constitutional convention’.
Lawrence Lessig: The only thing an Article 5 convention can do is to propose an idea for how to fix a broken system, a system that has become corrupted, let’s say, by a Congress that can’t function. So I strongly support legislators around the country creating the movement necessary to create this instance, this Article 5 convention, that could begin to give people who are not dependent upon the corruption of Washington an opportunity to think about how to fix this system. We have to recognize Uncle Sam has an addiction. He is a drunk. And what we have to organize is an intervention. An intervention to give him a chance to once again legislate in a way that we can be proud of. The latest polls find 6% of America have confidence in Congress. 6%. I want to know who those people are because I have a bridge I want to sell them. 6%. What we need is state legislators to do their job, and their job is to stand up and organize the political force necessary to take on the essential corruption that means that our government cannot now function, and you here in Massachusetts can do that.
Phil Blumel: Young Americans for Liberty is a nonpartisan organization of libertarian student activists that formed in 2008 after the end of Congressman Ron Paul’s first presidential run. YAL has over 600 chapters nationwide and just finished a successful pilot program in the 2018 elections that put hundreds of student activists on the streets across America. We spoke to YAL president, Cliff Maloney last week.
Cliff Maloney: Phil.
Phil Blumel: Hey Cliff, how’s it going? Basically, I just wanted to ask you about the win at the door. US term limits has had information booths at several of your YAL conventions, or YALcons, and we’ve been really impressed by the quality, the quantity, and enthusiasm of these young activists we met there. How did this group come together?
Cliff Maloney: Yeah, so Young Americans for Liberty was founded back in 2008. My predecessor Jeff Frazee was the youth coordinator for Ron Paul when he ran for president, so he kind of decided, look, there’s all this energy for the principles of liberty, so he decided to form Young Americans for Liberty, and when he did that, we began to start recruiting on campus. And for the first eight years of our existence, there was really such a heavy push to recruit and to find activists that not only care about the ideas, but really want to take action, and I think, I’m pretty proud to say, we’ve won 37 races out of the 76 that we did this cycle. We knocked on about 30 thousand doors in each of the races we deployed for, which has been a pretty significant-
Phil Blumel: Oh, that is.
Cliff Maloney: Impact-
Phil Blumel: Anybody that’s worked on state legislative races knows how important that is. And these are all state legislative races, right?
Cliff Maloney: Correct. All at the State House level except Nebraska because Nebraska is unicameral, so we will do state Senate there.
Phil Blumel: Interesting. So you put people on the ground in 76 races, and of those, you said that 35 have won.
Cliff Maloney: 37.
Phil Blumel: That’s fantastic. That’s really what I wanted to ask you about because that program seems really exciting. Why did you focus on state legislators first off?
Cliff Maloney: Yeah, that’s a great question, Phil. So here’s where we were as an organization, when we decided that we wanted to take youth on and wanted to have direct impact in the political process, we literally sat down, I’m a middle school math teacher by trade, most people don’t know that about me, but I like to keep things very, very simple and look at the numbers. So we just put a valuation on what it would mean to get somebody elected, from anything from dog catcher, and school board, and city council, state legislator, all the way up to Congress, Senate, and President, and we put a valuation on that.
Cliff Maloney: All right, what would it be worth to have somebody in that position that believes in our principles? And then, this is the most important part, we put a dollar amount on how much it would cost us to knock enough doors to impact the race by at least 10%. Let me say that one more time. We put a value, a dollar sign, how much money we would have to budget and spend so that if we knocked doors in the district, we would move the needle at least 10 percentage points. So the benefits, not just of getting the win, you now have a bench of people that can run for higher office. You now have individuals across the country that are proposing your legislation, and I would argue one of the most important things, they now have a microphone. They have a platform to speak about the ideas, and people have to listen because they’re a leader in their community, and their people have said, “You know what? We want you to represent us.” That’s been a great benefit to this program, as well.
Phil Blumel: Right. The win is important immediately, but it also is planting seeds for the future, as well.
Cliff Maloney: Yeah.
Phil Blumel: Now do you mostly participate in open seat elections, or do you sometimes take on incumbents?
Cliff Maloney: It’s been a pretty interesting mix. So let me give you just a few examples. Our first race in Texas, we took on an incumbent who was a party establishment type, votes to raise taxes, we put up a young guy, Mayes Middleton, the incumbent spent over a million dollars against us, and we went in and beat the incumbent by 14 points in a republican primary in Texas. Then, you’ve got races where it’s completely open. We had a race in Missouri, to give you an example, Tony LaBosco, and both of the candidates running for the seat, this is how open it was, they both had name ID under 6%. Nobody knew what was going on, and we ended up winning that race with 62% of the vote.
Phil Blumel: Wow.
Cliff Maloney: So there are different opportunities where we are looking to get involved in races where door knocking will have the most impact, and typically, those districts are either A, where the incumbent has high negatives, meaning that the voters are frustrated with the incumbent, they are not representing their values, or B, it is an open seat, and the name ID game is low enough that we can have that much more of an impact reaching voters because they haven’t made up their mind yet on a candidate.
Phil Blumel: Got it.
Cliff Maloney: Does that make sense?
Phil Blumel: Yeah. Sure. What kind of feedback are you getting from these activists? Besides doing good work, it must be an adventure for them because I know that I recall in the early ’90s when I traveled around the country collecting signatures to put term limits on various state ballots, I recall that as a blast and I have lots of stories to tell. And I bet a lot of these activists are having that same experience.
Cliff Maloney: They are. They’re creating some of the best experiences they’ll remember the rest of their lives. They’re in the trenches for 30 days, they’re there with typically nine other people on the ground, and they’re out there talking to the average American. Nothing compares to having to knock on somebody’s door and engage them in a conversation and learn what Americans are passionate about, and then figure out how to relay that back to the ideas, and our candidate, and why supporting our candidate connects with their ideals. And the best thing through all of this is the look in their eyes and the excitement on election night when they realize, “I can make a difference.”
Phil Blumel: I know you have a broader program, so forgive me for being a little parochial, but after all, this is a podcast about term limits, is it fair to say that in 2020, there will be an army of educated young people going door to door across America working on the campaigns of state legislators who advocate amongst other things, the term limits convention?
Cliff Maloney: Yes. I know US term limits is a great quote from Mark Twain, that politicians are like diapers-
Phil Blumel: Oh yeah.
Cliff Maloney: And they should be changed often and for the same reason, and I think that that’s spot on. But I think what we’re doing is very much in line with what US term limits is doing, and we’re trying to be a bench of principles, new people, and obviously you guys are very focused on the term limits, but I think it complements a lot of what we’re doing, because we’re really trying to say, “Look, enough is enough. Congress cannot have a single digit approval rating, but yet the incumbent reelection rate is through the roof.” Something needs to change there, and I think what we’re doing will start to help that snowball effect.
Phil Blumel: Some of our listeners may want to help you with this project. Where should they go to help do that?
Cliff Maloney: Yeah, sure. YALiberty.org is our website. They can do a bunch of things there. First, they can donate and support our efforts. The second, they can recommend candidates for us to support. If you have someone on your radar that’s running for state House, please, we want to know about them. We want to get them our service. There’s work for everybody to do if you believe in the principles of liberty, and look, if you want to term limit Congress, you want to term limit pretty much everybody across the country, I think our work is something that will help that directly.
Phil Blumel: I agree. Cliff, thank you very much for your time, this is an exciting project, and we’ll be following it.
Cliff Maloney: I appreciate it, Phil. Keep up all the great work with term limits. We appreciate what you guys do.
Nick Tomboulides: Don’t listen to the pessimists, don’t listen to the naysayers and the haters who say this can never happen, that term limits can never happen. It’s already happening. We know term limits can happen because it’s happening and it continues to happen. We term limited the president in 1951, term limited 36 governors, 15 state legislators, nine of the 10 largest cities in America, over half of all the cities in America with a population above 250 thousand have term limits. The people are continuously making term limits a reality, and this situation will be no exception. So just keep the faith, keep fighting. Sign up, get involved because this is a grassroots army, and we’re going to make this happen.
Phil Blumel: Thanks for joining us for this week’s podcast. With term limits bills dropping in Congress, and soon, term limits convention bills dropping in the states, we have a lot of work to do. Here’s your mission for this week, should you decide to accept it. Tell your senators and representatives that you want them to cosponsor and vote for the term limits amendment bill. You can use the online tool at TermLimits.com/legislators. That’s TermLimits.com/legislators.
Phil Blumel: Also, subscribe to this podcast if you haven’t done so already. You can use the podcast app on your iPhone, or Sticher, or Google Play on your Android device. Or go to iTunes and rate and review us while you’re there. If we act, we win. We’ll be back next week.
Speaker 2: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have No Uncertain Terms podcast.
Nick Tomboulides: All right. One line I’d add, and maybe they’ll use this or not, was that in a bit of breaking news, Titanic passengers have elected Nancy Pelosi as the deck chair rearranger by a margin of 220 to 192. Just putting that out there.
Phil Blumel: Okay, that’s pretty good.