Philip Blumel: Term limits qualify for the statewide ballot in Missouri. Hi. I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to The No Uncertain Terms, The Official Podcast of the Term Limits Movement, to the week of October 19th, 2020.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: The elections are only weeks away and term limits are a key issue in a handful of state races. Even better, voters in Missouri will have the opportunity to directly term limit more Missouri politicians in a referendum which will appear on the statewide ballot. Let’s discuss these and other election issues with US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey, Nick.
Philip Blumel: Well, there’s a lot of races to talk about, but one of the races I find the most interesting is in Missouri, where voters aren’t just gonna be able to vote for a candidates who talk about term limits, but are gonna actually be able to enact new term limits on a new set of politicians when they go to the ballot box in November.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. Right now, Missouri is one of only 14 states that term limit either their governor or their governor and lieutenant governor, but no other constitutional officers. And what this amendment would do is it would take the eight-year term limits the Governor of Missouri has and would expand that to all of the other statewide officials. So state treasurer, state auditor, attorney general and the lieutenant governor that is on the ballot. Missouri voters have a rich history of passing term limits. In 1965, 73% of them approved a term limit for the governor. In 1992, 75% approved term limits for Congress and the state legislature. In 2018, the Missouri legislature passed the Term Limits Convention. So there’s a rich history of it. This is a continuance of that. And it’s an opportunity to drain more swamps by getting more term limits for more sneaky politicians.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Yeah, it is exciting. And this is going to be Missouri Amendment number one. And now, interestingly, this was not done by initiative, it was done by legislative referrals. This vote is a product of the legislature itself. And I find that really fascinating, too. Usually, of course, we succeed in getting initiatives on the ballot through collecting of signatures. But in this case, the legislature itself did it, and it’s interesting why. First of all, it was the brainchild of a term limits supporter who we well know, Tony Luetkemeyer, who’s a senator in Missouri. And Missouri has had success with the eight-year policy on the legislature, eight-year on governor. And probably from their point of view from politicians, it doesn’t really seem fair that there’s a few posts that escape the eight term limit from a self-interested point of view. But also, they see the public policy benefits of it as well. They see it in the governor. They see it in the legislature. And there’s been some studies done specifically on Missouri term limits that really showed how it changed politics in that state.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, it has definitely revitalized the elections out there. It’s made elections more competitive. It has reduced corruption, actually. Missouri voters passed term limits for a reason, and that is two of the last three speakers before it came into effect had been indicted for corruption, including one who was serving in his 16th year. We’ve got studies that show term limits reduce irresponsible spending and certain taxes in states where it’s enacted. Missouri and other term limit states have performed better on rankings of fiscal health, and while states that are run by career politicians like New York and Illinois continue to languish.
Philip Blumel: Right. There was a study, and it’s not new, but it was eye opening at the time when it came out. It was called The Impact and Implications of Term Limits in Missouri by a guy named David C. Valentine. And he pointed out a couple of things that I found fascinating about term limits in Missouri that can be applicable to other states, is that in Missouri as in other states, we saw this giant surge in tenure in the 20th century. The norms of tenure in Missouri, much like the rest of the country, was a lot shorter for most of the history of this country. But in the 20th century, as the size of government grew, entrenched incumbency grew. And as soon as they enacted the term limits, the length of tenure of the legislators in Missouri went back closer to its historic norms. It solved a particular phenomena right off the bat, and clearly. Another thing that it did interestingly, too, is it also reduced the amount of purely political experience by the people in the legislature there.
Philip Blumel: And another way to look at that is that it increased the amount of non-political experience in that legislature. And this, I found particularly fascinating, because the founders of this country had tried to set up an upper and lower house that had somewhat a different character and different function, and a lot of that’s been erased over time. But what we see in term limit states and we saw in Missouri is that it sort of recreates this distinction between an upper and lower house, in that the lower house where there’s shorter terms, there’s also a shorter tenure because of now the term limits. But most of the upper house is made up of people that already served in the lower house and then ran for the upper house for the Senate. So what we see is in the lower house, we have lots more turnover and it’s closer to the people. And then you have the Senate which has longer terms, but also more purely political experience. So you see the character of the two bodies have changed after term limits as well. Viewing this has really made term limits quite popular in Missouri. I think the prospects of Amendment 1 passing are quite good.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. No. You’re right. I’ve seen those changes first hand when I went to Missouri to advocate for the Term Limits Convention just a couple of years ago. I would go into an office and I would be expecting to meet with lawyers and lifelong politicians and lobbyists and political consultants and wheeler dealers. And my experience was very different from that. I found that most of them were citizen legislators. The Missouri legislature is filled with doctors and small business people and farmers and teachers and folks from all sorts of different backgrounds that you certainly… You don’t see in a typical state legislature. You certainly never see it in Congress, and it was refreshing. I don’t doubt at all that that has been a contributing factor in the state doing so well with fiscal health.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Another notable term limits battle is underway in Alabama, where retired college football player and coach Tommy Tuberville is challenging term limits opponent Doug Jones for his US Senate seat. Unlike the high profile Senate fight in Kentucky between Amy McGrath and Mitch McConnell, in this case, it is the Republican Tuberville carrying the term limits flag against incumbent Democrat Jones. Here’s Tuberville’s latest TV ad on the subject.
Tommy Tuberville: You know, Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama. But Doug Jones, he’s too liberal to teach them. Jones is with Biden and Pelosi, not you. I’m running for the Senate to help President Trump drain the swamp. That means term limits and a ban on politicians becoming lobbyists. And if those jokers won’t balance the budget, they shouldn’t get paid. No balanced budget, no paycheck.
Speaker 6: Coach Tuberville will drain the swamp.
Tommy Tuberville: I’m Tommy Tuberville and I approve this message.
Philip Blumel: The politicians did have to learn the hard way, though, because there were a couple of attempts from the state legislature to try to lengthen their term limits and they got slapped down by the voters. And since then, they actually became one of the three states in the country that have officially called for a amendment writing convention under Article 5 of the US Constitution, limited to the subject of congressional term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: I’ll give you a different hypothesis. I don’t think those politicians, those losers from 10 or 15 years ago, learned the hard way. I think they got termed out.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Well, of course they did. Right.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I think they lost their jobs because they got termed out and they were replaced with a newer crop of legislators whose feelings and sensibilities and policy positions are a lot closer to the people of Missouri, and that’s the beauty of term limits. It’s funny, you often see this, where having term limits in a legislature or in a municipality or anywhere, really, often helps facilitate getting more term limits enacted because it allows people to think from a totally different perspective. I would say, give some credit to the Missouri legislature here. This is them doing the right thing. They passed the Term Limits Convention already, and now they’re working to expand it to more offices. Hats off to them.
Philip Blumel: It sounds like they’re just finishing the job. Well, one of the interesting races coming up in November is between Mitch McConnell and Amy McGrath in Kentucky. It’s close. I know the polls are weighting towards Mitch McConnell, but I would bring it up because term limits have played such a large role in this campaign and they continue to.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and term limits came up at the debate last night in the least predictable way, nobody asked about it. Mitch McConnell brought it up himself. Terrible political move for somebody who’s been in the Senate since Ronald Reagan was President. But let’s roll the clip anyway.
Mitch McConnell: Yeah, my opponent always likes to mention how long I’ve been in the Senate, she doesn’t seem to be troubled by the fact that Joe Biden has been in Washington 47 years. Under her proposal to limit terms, Joe Biden would have been leaving the Senate at the time I got there. [chuckle] So I’m amused by her advocacy for a position on term limits that would have eliminated Joe Biden’s career before I even got to the Senate. Look, the question is, who can be effective for Kentucky? There are four congressional leaders. I’m the only one not from New York or California. I allow Kentucky to punch above its weight. What does it mean to Kentucky over the last term? My last term, $17.5 billion for the Commonwealth that would not have been there, had I not been the majority leader of the Senate. I give Kentucky an opportunity to punch above its weight on national issues and to bring home things for this state that it would not otherwise get.
Speaker 8: Senator, thank you. And a rebuttal from Lieutenant Colonel McGrath.
Amy McGrath: Yeah. Senator McConnell likes to talk about Kentucky punching above its weight. Here in Kentucky, we know we feel like we’ve been sucker punched. And Senator McConnell would love to talk about term limits, I would love to talk about it because you know what? President Trump is for congressional term limits. It’s top on his agenda, and I agree with him on that. We should have them and we should get them right now.
Philip Blumel: You’re right, that was unprovoked.
Nick Tomboulides: Based on this debate, it really doesn’t seem to me like Mitch McConnell even knows what a term limit is. He keeps playing this game, it’s like, “What if?” “Under the US term limits amendment, Joe Biden would have been leaving the Senate when I got here.” He seems to be saying, “I’ve only been here 35 years, I’m a spring chicken,” but that’s not how it works. Mitch McConnell is a career politician, so is Joe Biden. We shouldn’t have to use carbon dating to figure out how long our senators have been in office.
Philip Blumel: It also focuses on the wrong metric. The number of years, of course, is the mechanics of a term limit, but what the features of a term limit are are competitive elections and rotation in office, these are the benefits.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes. And by the way, the term limits movement is not saying Mitch McConnell should resign, we’re not saying Joe Biden or Chuck Grassley or anyone should have resigned. What we’re saying is, let’s pass a constitutional amendment that will fix the problem moving forward. This is what people in the swamp really fail to realize, that our goal of passing term limits now has nothing to do with lecturing old senators on why they should have stopped a while ago. We wanna stop them now. It’s just human nature. People want… Get power, they wanna keep it, but it’s our job to draw some lines.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, our mindsets are totally different. Politicians can’t help but to feel like term limits are an attack on them personally, like the reason for a term limit is to get rid of them, when really, they are irrelevant to this. In fact, most of the term limits measures that we’d work on across the country are prospective, meaning that if you have an eight-year term limit, it usually goes into effect eight years from the time that the voters pass it. We’re not worried about the past. We just wanna have competitive elections and rotation in office for the future.
Nick Tomboulides: And Amy McGrath brought this up in the clip. This is Donald Trump’s term limit that Mitch McConnell is opposing. So you’ve got a Democrat standing with Trump for term limits, and the Republican majority leader of the Senate is opposing Donald Trump. That’s pretty remarkable. ‘Cause I would say right now, you look around, there’s really no Republican Party in the country right now without Trump. It’s not Mitch McConnell who’s getting thousands of people to fill airport hangers and show up for rallies, it is Donald Trump. And so, it’s just amazing to me that the Republican leader in the Senate is willing to be so defiant against the very President who’s very popular in their own party.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. In fact, it’s worth pointing out, too, that his defiance isn’t just rhetorical. He runs the Senate. It’s because of him that we are not getting a vote on SJR1.
Philip Blumel: With Term Limits Convention bills advancing in both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature, Democratic former Governor Ed Rendell and Republican Senator Pat Toomey dropped a bombshell onto Pennsylvania politics, with a joint statement favoring congressional term limits in general and the Term Limits Convention legislation in particular. Their manifesto appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the largest daily paper in the state, on October 6th. Here it is, in its entirety, read by US term limits activist Aaron Dukette.
Aaron Dukette: In these partisan times, one might ask what a Democratic governor and a Republican senator from Pennsylvania could possibly have in common. The answer is, moving forward, we both believe that members of Congress should be subject to term limits, and Pennsylvania can help make that happen. We recall a time, not long ago, when the House and the Senate could regularly put divisions aside to address the big issues facing our country. Think of the early 2000s, when in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, Congress overwhelmingly approved several measures that created the Department of Homeland Security, established more stringent safety guidelines at airports, and helped Ground Zero first responders.
Aaron Dukette: Now, in the midst of another crisis, members of Congress frequently focus more on blaming each other than on finding solutions. Entrenched politicians have been steering the ship of state for decades now. And don’t look now, we’re about to hit a $25 trillion national debt iceberg. It’s time for a new approach. Our elected representatives seem afraid to do anything that would jeopardize their reelection. Term limits allow them to operate without that pressure, secure in the knowledge that they are not risking the position that could be a lifetime career. They would be able to cast votes knowing that the risk they are taking would not jeopardize their entire future. 79% of Pennsylvanians support term limits on Congress, including super majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Aaron Dukette: It’s hard to find common sense in Washington DC, and believe us, we’ve looked. But that’s not to say common sense is extinct. You can still find it all over Pennsylvania, from the high tech hubs along route 202, to the research labs, factories and foundries of Pittsburgh, and everywhere in between. If you’re with us on congressional term limits, that just means you trust the people more than the political elite. Who could argue with that? There are some who say term limits could deprive Congress of legislative experience, and that professional politicians are the only people qualified to lead. We disagree.
Aaron Dukette: Term limits would infuse Congress with real-world experience, perspectives and sensibilities that are often missing. Term limits would replace the smirking class with the working class. By now, you’re probably saying, “Okay, okay, I’m for term limits, too, but it’s not going to happen. What politician would vote himself out of a job?” Thankfully, the brilliance of our Constitution solves that dilemma. The US Supreme Court has ruled that congressional term limits may only be enacted by constitutional amendment. The Constitution provides two methods of proposing a term limits amendment. It can be done either by a two-thirds vote of Congress, which is unlikely to happen, or by a convention of states to propose an amendment, which is convened by state legislatures. That means state legislatures, including the Pennsylvania General Assembly, have the power to bypass Washington DC and deliver congressional term limits for the American people.
Aaron Dukette: Under the Constitution, once 34 states have applied for a convention limited to congressional term limits, Congress shall call such convention, to which each state would send delegates. The convention could then propose appropriate term limits for Congress, which would have to be ratified by 38 state legislatures, before becoming part of the Constitution. Our system will not be fixed by those who broke it. Without enormous pressure, members of Congress will never vote to limit their own power and influence. With that in mind, we call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly, to get the ball rolling on passing a resolution applying for a Congressional term limits convention.
Aaron Dukette: We leave you with the words of a great Pennsylvanian and a fellow supporter of term limits, Benjamin Franklin. “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.” We couldn’t agree more. Let’s work on something our country is united behind, and increase faith in government. Let’s place term limits on Congress. Published by Ed Rendell and Pat Toomey, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, on October 6th, 2020.
Philip Blumel: So he is actually standing in the way of what Trump has said that he wants to do, then McGrath mentioned that in the debate. Part of what’s interesting about that is that Trump is leading Biden by a lot in Kentucky, and so I think McGrath wanted to point out that, “Look, I can step across the aisle and do what the people want, even if Trump supports it.” I think that really speaks to a lot of people in Kentucky. Meanwhile, McConnell is saying the exact opposite, “Look, I don’t care what Trump wants, this is my job, I’m important.” He made this point about how he makes Kentucky punch above its size.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, well, that was really telling.
Philip Blumel: It sure was.
Nick Tomboulides: That, I thought was… That was the most important part of the clip, actually, and if you went to the bathroom or something, you might have missed it. But what he basically said was, “I’m a congressional leader, and that gives me the influence nobody else could have.” He said, “I allow Kentucky to punch above its weight.” That was his exact quote, and then he bragged about getting $17.5 billion, with a B, in federal welfare money for Kentucky. Gee, what a conservative. This guy is practically a modern day William F. Buckley. But he admits that because he has been there so long, he brings home bacon that would not otherwise exist. And he’s basically saying to the people of Kentucky that because Washington is so corrupt, because Washington rewards 35 years of gray hairs instead of your talent, or your intelligence, or your background, that Kentucky has no choice but to vote for Mitch McConnell. I thought that was the most important part of the entire debate, ’cause it was Mitch McConnell saying, “Hey guys, I don’t really believe in democracy. [chuckle] I think you have to vote for me, because Washington is broken and I’m the guy who broke it.”
Philip Blumel: Right. Having giant inequities of power due to seniority between state-to state is not a feature [chuckle] of the current system, it’s a defect. And term limits helps equalize that power between states. We don’t want one state to have much more power than another just because their senator has been there for 35 years, or 45 years, or 55 years. We’d like to see they have the seniority leveled between the states, and that’s another feature of term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. Well, he was basically admitting career politicians get to hold their own voters hostage. “Vote for me, Kentucky, or you’re gonna lose everything.” And there’s a kernel of truth to that, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s something you wanna brag about.
Philip Blumel: Thank you for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. In January, pollsters asked Arizonians this: If the state legislatures of two-thirds of the states vote to call an amendment proposing convention to place term limits on Congress, would you want your state senator and state representative to vote yes or no on this bill? 85%, they would want a yes vote, only 8% of Arizona voters disapproved. If you live in Arizona, please help us make sure Arizona legislators know this. Go to termlimits.com/arizona2020 and send a message to your state legislators, asking them to sign the term limits state pledge. That’s termlimits.com/arizona2020. When you’re done, please post the link on your social media. Thanks, we’ll be back next week.
Speaker 2: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.
Speaker 11: USTL.