Philip Blumel: The Great House Republican Sellout. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits movement for September 21, 2020.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: On the heels of President Trump’s second term agenda, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has released a very similar document laying out what House Republicans priorities will be after November, based loosely on the successful 1994 Contract with America, the representative Newt Gingrich famously used to rewin a Republican House Majority that year, McCarthy’s commitment with America differs with both the Trump and Gingrich manifestos in one major particular, no mention of term limits. What gives? Let’s ask US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey, Nick.
Philip Blumel: Have you gotten wind of this commitment with America, that minority leader Kevin McCarthy just came out with last week?
Nick Tomboulides: It’s the new McCarthyism, right?
Philip Blumel: Yeah, I suppose so.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. So we’re really close to an election, a big election, and what that has meant historically is that Republicans in Washington are promising to do something to America. First, they gave us a contract in ’94, then I think it was a promise or pledge in 2010 and now it’s a commitment. So, I guess that’s what the intern in Kevin McCarthy’s office found in thesaurus this time, commitment.
Philip Blumel: It’s getting dumbed down each time because back in 1994, there was actually committing to specific votes that they were promising to hold, including term limits, and they did hold a vote on term limits, I’ll give them that amount of credit, but this one is just a bunch of feel good junk. They’re gonna cure the virus and they’re gonna get Americans to work and they’re gonna give China a black eye, etcetera.
Nick Tomboulides: Can we sue them for breach of contract? Because when you look at what happened in 1994, we never got the term limits we were promised in the contract. There was another thing… I mean you said it was successful. Yeah, it was very successful. Politically, they won a bunch of seats but I don’t think they ever actually got around to doing like 95% of what they promised to do. I think they promised to get rid of 100 different federal programs, and I think 10 years after the contract, those programs had grown by like 25%. People have looked at it and said that it didn’t really pan out to anything.
Philip Blumel: Well, by successful, I do mean politically. The purpose of the contract is to rewin the house. They had been wandering the wilderness for 40 years. They promised some specific things that were very popular with voters, including term limits and so it was successful in that sense. They did have a vote on a very weak term limits bill in the Congress. It passed by a majority of the House, but it didn’t pass with this necessary two-thirds for a constitutional amendment and they deserve credit for that. But this new commitment to America that McCarthy is coming out is so unexciting, it’s hard to believe and it does not even include term limits, even after President Trump just a week or two ago came out with his second term commitments in which he prominently pointed out to get a vote on congressional term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: I mean, really, what good is one of these goofy contracts without term limits in it? To me, it feels like Queen without Freddie Mercury or the Bulls without MJ. Term limits were the star of the show. Nobody cares about this stuff without term limits involved, so…
Philip Blumel: Oh, sure.
Nick Tomboulides: This is just me, I don’t know how you feel or how our audience feels, but this whole thing to me has a very Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown vibe to it.
Philip Blumel: It most certainly does, even the Trump promise to recommit himself to term limits for his second term has that feeling to it, too. Because as you know, he made the prominent promise the first time around, we saw very little action, basically a tweet or two. And then now he’s promising to do it for his second term knowing that Americans love it but is he gonna do it? Who knows? I’ll give him credit only for bringing up the issue, which Kevin McCarthy is too timid even to do.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. Maybe we get a little bit of help from Presidential term limits on that, because maybe Trump without needing votes again in four years can just do whatever the hell he wants, and maybe he’ll actually go after the jugular for this ’cause he doesn’t need Mitch McConnell anymore. Or more accurately, you could say Mitch McConnell needs Trump more than Trump needs McConnell over the next four years. I remember when Kevin McCarthy came in, it was the mid-2000s. And he called himself a young gun, he teamed up with Eric Cantor and some other guys who released this book, and they said… They were all about 40 years old, and they said, “Oh, we’re really gonna shake everything up. We’re gonna change Washington.” Now, he’s been there 15 years and nothing has really changed. The young guns have become old timers, pardon my skepticism, this guy’s been there 15 years, he’s been a politician for 20 years. He’s almost 60 years old. At this point, like give it a rest, nobody is buying what you’re selling.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, in fact, this commitment to America is so empty that let’s just simply stop discussing it. Let’s talk about Senator Ben Sasse’s manifesto that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week. He came out with a bunch of changes that he felt would help direct the Senate and make it functional again. I think they’re a bunch of wacky ideas but they’re actually real ideas, unlike the junk that showed up in McCarthy’s empty bromide page, but Sasse’s ideas are, I think, somewhat wacky, but it did include term limits and other ideas that he felt would actually make some serious changes. So, here we have a prominent Senator calling for term limits as a Senate priority. We have the President of the United States calling for congressional term limits as a presidential priority, while McCarthy in a list of fluff couldn’t even give a lip service to the idea, that shows which side he’s on.
Nick Tomboulides: I like to hear from people who want structural changes in Washington, who wanna try to fix the system and get rid of the perverse incentives as opposed to just having a food fight on the things we see on TV all the time. Coronavirus is one thing, taxes are one thing, it’s all important, but if you have politicians who are there to serve themselves, as opposed to doing the right thing, every single one of those issues is gonna continue to fester, nothing is ever gonna get solved, because the elect officials are responding to the wrong incentives. So I like anything that will fix the fundamentals of Washington, get that straightened out, and then other issues will follow.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, I think that’s right, and I think that’s partly what we’re trying to do, with term limits, it’s a process reform, it’s not about one single issue, it’s about making the system work, so that the system can address these important issues, which it’s not currently doing.
Paul Jacob: Lifetime politicians ruin Christmas. Legislators, anxious to further weaken their own term limits, placed Issue Two on the Arkansas ballot. The current limit is already a lawyeringly long, 16 years, thanks to a dishonestly worded, legislatively referred 2014 ballot amendment, which weaken the voter initiated limits. Voters came back in 2018, to restore the original six-year house, and eight-year Senate limits, placing a measure on the ballot that, from various public reports, received nearly 80% of the vote. But an Arkansas Supreme Court decision forbade counting those votes. Still, politicians are back with another term limit attack. Issue Two, lowers the 16-year limit to 12 years. Huh? Lowers? Stay with me. Issue Two grandfathers everyone elected this year or before. Current office holders get the full 16 years, plus no lifetime limit, that gets next, allowing politicians to return for another 12 years after a short break.
Paul Jacob: No wonder the citizens group, Arkansas Term Limits, opposes Issue Two, calling it the lifetime politician amendment. Not unrelated, there is also Issue Three, Arkansas legislators have repeatedly attacked term limits, and the only way for citizens to get a real term limit on the ballot, the citizen petition process. Advocates acknowledge the Amendment, Issue Three, would make it harder to qualify proposals for the ballot, the Arkansas Times, Max Brantley explained, but generally saw that as a good thing. One poison pill provision of Issue Three would slice six months from the petition process, moving the deadline from warm sunny July to cold dark January, enforcing campaigns to flood Christmas shopping with petitioners trying to gather signatures. Call it the ruin Christmas amendment. Putting two and three together, the lifetime politicians ruin Christmas, amendments. This is common sense. I’m Paul Jacob. For more common sense, go to thisiscommonsense.org.
Philip Blumel: Well, let’s move on from the former young gun, Kevin McCarthy, to another former young gun, Chuck Grassley. Happy Birthday. He turned 87 years old last week.
Nick Tomboulides: And he’s running for re-election this year, right?
Philip Blumel: Well, he’s not committing. He’s gonna see how he feels, but he may… If he feels up to it he says that he is planning on continuing to run for office, yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: I cannot believe the sheer number of years that Chuck Grassley has been in politics. He was elected to the Iowa legislature in 1958 and he has been in elected office continuously since that point. So he was sworn in ’59, 61 years in politics. He spent 16 years in the Iowa legislature.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, that’s pretty much a political career right there.
Nick Tomboulides: Before moving to Congress in 1975, and now he has spent 45 years in Congress. Is that not crazy?
Philip Blumel: It is crazy.
Nick Tomboulides: This guy has… He’s spent 61 years in elected office. If you think about it, just like 100 years ago, Americans were not even living to 61.
Philip Blumel: It’s funny, we’re picking on Chuck Grassley here, not really picking on, but we’re bringing up Chuck Grassley here, ’cause it was his birthday last week, but he’s not the oldest person in the US Congress. Don Young in Alaska, older and so is Dianne Feinstein in California.
Nick Tomboulides: Maybe he should be a young gun.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, right. He formally was back way before I was born.
Nick Tomboulides: Don Young, I think, is one year older than Grassley. He’s the only congressman from Alaska and he has been Alaska’s sole representative in Congress since 1972, I think. Alaska has had only one congressman since 1972, which is pretty amazing, ’cause the state is not that old. Alaska was founded in 1959, so for a majority of its history, it’s only had one Congressman.
Philip Blumel: Yeah. Now, Chuck Grassley, inspite of his long tenure, claims to be a supporter of term limits. Do you know that? He even reiterated that, in fact, we talked about the Ben Sasse manifesto in the Wall Street Journal last week. In response to that article, Senator Grassley, reiterated his long-standing verbal support, at least, for the idea of term limits. He said, “Oh, yeah, it’s got some good ideas in there but some bad ideas in that article, but I still stand by term limits.” That’s what he said.
Nick Tomboulides: Do you think maybe it’s like a 70-year term limit that he favors, and maybe just one more term and he’ll get around to stepping down? I mean it’s ridiculous. How do we let people get away with this?
Philip Blumel: I don’t know, but I tell you what, saying your… As you and I know, saying you’re sure term limits doesn’t mean a thing. If you look on termlimits.com and look at the congressional score card, you’ll look under Senator Chuck Grassley, and you’ll see that he has a grade of F, and it has nothing to do with this long tenure. We do not ask people to self-limit, what we ask people to do is sign a pledge to co-sponsor and vote for a term limits amendment bill and he has done neither.
Nick Tomboulides: Doesn’t it sort of insult our intelligence though, at a certain point, where it’s like we see how politicians operate. We watch them when they’re running for re-election and they’ll say things like, “Well, I want healthcare for every American, so I’m going to introduce the Universal Health Care Act and we’re gonna crush ISIS, and I’ve got the National Security Act, and I’m gonna push that very aggressively,” but when it comes to term limits, the extent of Chuck Grassley’s support is when he’s in a diner somewhere in Pella, Iowa, and someone says, “Hey, Chuck, do you support term limits?” he goes, “Yeah, I do.” And that’s it. What are you gonna do about it? That amounts to… It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
Philip Blumel: Mm-hmm. As a Senator, Chuck Grassley served on the judiciary committee, which would be… In fact, he was chairman and that would basically be the origin of a constitutional amendment before it gets a full vote, and we saw some action on this just a year or two ago, when Senator Cruz, who is a genuine term limits supporter, actually got a hearing on the congressional term limits bill, and had our own Nick Tomboulides yourself, testify in front of the Senate, on the issue. Now, that’s taking action, trying to push the ball forward. Of course, he ran into a brick wall because the other Senators didn’t go along, but that’s what you expect from someone who actually wants to see movement on a particular idea. Action, not just talk.
S?: This is a public service announcement.
Matt Lieberman: Hey, everyone. I’m Matt Lieberman and I am a Democrat, running to represent Georgia, in the United States Senate, in the open Senate seat election. I support term limits because if we have term limits, then at least for half their time in office, senators would not live in fear of primaries from political extremists and would be able to actually represent the people we’re supposed to be representing, which is most of us. That’s why I signed the US term limits pledge.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of No Uncertain Terms. President Trump included past congressional term limits as one of his core priorities for a second term. Let’s let them know that we support this idea and urge him to secure a vote on the US Term Limits Amendment, that is waiting for a hearing right now in the US Senate. Go to termlimits.com/Trump and ask the President to break the log jam and get a vote on SJR1. It’ll take you two minutes. Even if you’re skeptical about his commitment to this issue, let him know that. Dare him to prove you wrong by having a vote. That’s termlimits.com/Trump. Thanks, we’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: If you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review. The No Uncertain Terms Podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, and now, Google Play.