Philip Blumel: Another election, another term limits pledger in Congress. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain terms, the official Podcast of the term limits movement for the week of December 7th, 2020.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: While everyone is focusing on the upcoming US Senate run-off elections in Georgia scheduled for January, yet another run-off election was held in Georgia just last week. On Tuesday, December 1, Democrat Kwanza Hall was elected to fill the seat of deceased Representative John Lewis, who is Kwanza Hall? And how might his election affect the movement to term limit the Congress? Let’s ask US Term Limits, Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Happy Boxing Day.
Philip Blumel: Thank you. So who is Kwanza Hall?
Nick Tomboulides: Kwanza Hall is a brand new member of Congress from Georgia, he was just sworn in, he’s a former member of the Atlanta City Council, and he has just become the third democratic signer of the US Term Limits pledge to be elected to Congress.
Philip Blumel: Fantastic.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s a bit of a weird situation. He’s replacing the Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, who passed away, and he won a special election, so he only gets to serve until January. He won the special election, someone else won the general election, but that’s not to say his win doesn’t speak volumes and doesn’t have value for the term limits movement because again, he is a Democrat, it is a very high profile seat, lots of visibility, and in the short time he’s there, he might be able to make a big impact.
Philip Blumel: So he ran to fill out the rest of John Lewis term, even though he just won this last week, he’s gonna leave office in January.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. Yes.
Philip Blumel: Okay, now the woman that won the November election and will be taking over in January, Nikema Williams, she’s not a pledge signer is she? .
Nick Tomboulides: No, she’s not. She’s not, but there was no pledge signer in her race. So in Kwanza Hall’s race, when the special election voters were given the choice between Kwanza, a pledge signer and his opponent who had not signed the pledge, and they went with the pro-term limits candidate, I’m wondering if maybe there won’t be a match-up in two years from now, between Hall and Williams.
Philip Blumel: Okay, so he’ll be in office for a couple of months, I assume that we will follow up with him and maybe he will be a short co-sponsor of the Congressional term limits bill for a short period of time, that is what he committed to when he signed the pledge.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right.
Philip Blumel: And it is also significant because of what else is going on in Georgia, this wasn’t the only run-off last week, of course, we got the one coming up in January, which is also a battle between pledge signers and pledge refusers.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, ironically, on the opposite side of the aisle in the Senate race, the Democrats were pledge refusers and in Kwanza Hall’s race, he is a pro-term limits Democrat, so it just shows term limits can transcend party lines, but I think it’s super important for people to know out of this, there’s one takeaway, it’s that term limits is not partisan, it’s barely even political, to be honest, in the sense of it divides nobody, and it’s pretty much a consensus idea, but there’s still a group of people out there who see this issue as partisan, largely due in part to the Newt Gingrich and the Republican efforts of the 90s, sort of branded it that way, but it’s never been partisan.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, you can see that from the polling of course as well.
Nick Tomboulides: If you think about it, are term limits on the President partisan? Term limits on the governor of Florida is that partisan? For mayors? Come to think, I’ve never heard anyone in either party argue against any of that, congressional term limits is the same thing, and every time a prominent democratic pledge signer like Kwanza Hall gets elected, and this is the third time it’s happened now in just two years, even for a small stint, it makes a very big statement.
Philip Blumel: Indeed, so that was exciting and unexpected, unexpected to me because not living in Georgia, I was not paying attention to this race, and I think that’s probably true of people around the country. All the eyes are on Georgia right now, and clearly term limits are part of that focus.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Senator David Perdue, of Georgia is a relative newbie in the US Senate, just finishing his first term, he was elected in 2014, winning the seat that opened up as a result of the retirement of Georgia, Senator Saxby Chambliss. Before that, he was a businessman, working as a Senior Vice President of Reebok, and then as CEO of Pillowtex and Dollar General. On November 3, he received the most votes, but did not reach the 50% threshold necessary to be cleared the winner of his election, instead, Perdue will face runner-up John Ossoff in a January runoff election, Senator Perdue is a signer of the US term limits pledge and fulfilling his commitment has co-sponsored the US term limits amendment. In January, he spoke at an activist summit sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.
David Perdue: As with every moment of crisis in our history, God has blessed us with a moment of opportunity, and we have it right now, we can stop the gridlock in Washington, we can change the direction of our country, we can eliminate the dysfunction in Washington, but we can’t do that until and unless we bring term limits to the United States Senate, and the United States House Representative.
Philip Blumel: Nick, did you happen to see the article in National Review by former Senator Orrin Hatch avoiding judicial Armageddon in which he argues for Article 5?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, I saw the article, and it’s important for us to note on this podcast, people are probably gonna be wondering… Yes, Orrin Hatch is the longest serving Republican senator in US history. He was first elected in 1877 and stayed until 2019. Excuse me, 1977. Not 1877, sorry he did not serve 140 years in the Senate, although it probably did feel like that to the rest of us. It’s good stuff. It’s really good stuff. It’s a great piece. I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed it sooner, and you might be asking, “Well, okay, why is a term limits group quoting this careerist legislator?” And the reason I would say is our movement benefits any time an influencer, regardless of who they are, makes a positive statement in some regard to what we’re working to accomplish.
Philip Blumel: Of course. Now, I wanna point out that in this article, he’s talking about the topical issue of court packing, and he’s not talking about term limits. What he’s talking about and what he’s coming out in favor for here is the process of amending the Constitution via the convention process, which is one of the two processes included in Article V of the Constitution to allow the Constitution to be amended. And, of course, there’s a congressional route and then there’s the states can amend it through the convention process. And Orrin Hatch is saying that if the Congress decides to pack the court, add additional members to the Supreme Court in order to influence its make up, contrary to what polling is telling us that Americans want, both Democrats and Republicans, then the only recourse we would really have is to go to the states and have the states demand a convention in order to craft a amendment that fixes the number of Supreme Court Justices at its traditional nine. So why would he choose this route instead of the congressional route? Well, clearly, it will have been Congress that did the court packing. And so, clearly, the Congress can not be the solution to the problem, it has to be the states.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and there were some great quotes in here too. What I like most is, basically, this tip of the cap that he gave to the pressuring Congress strategy. He said, “Even if the Article V convention never happens, it will still succeed because it will box Congress into a corner, it will put them on notice, and it will raise the political costs for Congress of doing the wrong thing.” I really like that.
Philip Blumel: That applies directly to our project with trying to create a term limits amendment to the Constitution. We are trying to get Congress to do it itself, but recognize that it’s contrary to their interest, so they probably won’t, but to put pressure on them and we go to the states to call for this convention. We can amend the Constitution through the convention, or this convention could serve as pressure on Congress for them to do it themselves.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, exactly. And he said, “The threat of judicial Armageddon,” he was talking about term limits with four states to focus on one amendment and one amendment only. That’s a great theme to hit on as well, because, again, we are advocating for one amendment through the Article V process. And that’s 100% correct, that if the states are unified, mobilized and galvanized around addressing careerism in Congress, for example, then they too would be able to focus on a single amendment. He was, of course, talking about court packing, we’re, of course, not. We’re talking term limits here, but the principle that he was hitting on there is the same as ours.
Philip Blumel: I noticed that there were several points in this article that reiterate points that we make all the time, and one of them is that the convention approach is really only appropriate, really only possible when the states are looking to amend the Congress in a way that is supported broadly by the American people, that you can’t get anything through the convention process that is extremely controversial. You’re not gonna have an anti-abortion amendment or an overturning of the Second Amendment or something in a convention, because it’s simply too hard. You have to have 34 states call for the convention on the subject and then 38 states, 38 states ratify it. That bar is so high and has never been done that it really calls for only subjects in which we have broad agreement from left to right, and maybe court packing is one of those.
Philip Blumel: I know during the ’30s, there was an attempt to pack the courts for the same thing, for the same reason, the Congress was trying to pass legislation that the courts weren’t having any of. They said it was unconstitutional, and so there was a move to add additional members to the court so that they would approve the legislation that was seen as unconstitutional. Well, that fizzled out, but the idea has come back into vogue, and he’s suggesting that Americans don’t like it, and this might be the only way to stop it.
Nick Tomboulides: And I would say, sure, anti-court packing might be more popular than your garden variety political issue that people are finding about on Facebook, but I would say court packing is still way more divisive than term limits. I know a lot of Democrats who are for court packing.
Philip Blumel: I agree with that. Me too.
Nick Tomboulides: I know a lot of Republicans who are against it. I don’t know anybody outside of Washington and Tallahassee who’s against term limits. So we are even more tailor-made for this process than, say, anti-court packing, but what I liked about this, even though this is not a court packing podcast, we’re not really gonna get into it, but he acknowledged the fundamental purpose of Article V, and that is to give states a way to do and run around Washington DC when Congress refuses to propose the right amendments. I’ve got the quote right here. It says, from Orrin Hatch, “Article V of the Constitution gives states an avenue to amend the Constitution,” and this is the operative keyword here, “independent of Congress.” That’s Constitution 101. There’s a lot of misinformation sometimes put out there by groups that oppose term limits trying to attack Article V. They are completely off-base. This process was created to allow the states to go around Congress and be independent of Congress. That was the entire purpose. I love that he emphasized that here.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. When the Congress itself is the problem, it cannot at the same time be the solution, and that is why the founders gave us Article V.
Ken Quinn: Hi, this is Ken Quinn, Regional Director with US Term Limits. This is part one of a series called Exposing the Myth of the Runaway Convention. I’d like to begin by providing a little personal background about myself as it relates to this subject. You see, I used to be adamantly opposed to an Article V convention being called. In fact, I was so opposed to it that I warned legislators in my state about the dangers of an Article V convention. Now, I believe this because I received information from an organization that campaigns against Article V to raise money, and they produced a DVD titled “Beware of Article V.”
Ken Quinn: As well as many other articles against it in their publications. I naively assumed that the information was truthful and accurate, and unfortunately, out of ignorance, I shared it with legislators in my state, to make a long story short, I decided to do my own research by reading the notes taken by James Madison at the 1787 Federal convention among others, reading The Federalist papers and also the letters of correspondence between the framers during this time period, I quickly realized that I was wrong on this issue, and all of the information from that organization was completely false, immediately I did a 180 and decided to embrace the Article V-convention mode as the ultimate check against a runaway federal government.
Ken Quinn: So let’s begin by going back to the Constitution, our first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, after the United States declared independence, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, but they were not ratified by the States until March 1 1781.
Ken Quinn: The articles create a “Firm League of friendship with each other” in a very weak Federal government with most powers remaining with the states, with each state having one vote. Now, keep in mind, that the country just broke free from a tyrannical government, and the last thing they wanted to do was place chains of bondage around their neck again, so we need to cut them a little slack here.
Ken Quinn: The new Congress under the Articles of Confederation had no authority to tax, it could not control commerce between the States and foreign nations among a host of other weaknesses. The worst part of the article was that it required unanimous consent in Congress in order to propose amendments and unanimous consent among the state legislatures to ratify them. Now, this is a very important point to remember because it will come up in a future segment, the Articles of Confederation did not contain a provision allowing the state legislatures to propose amendments in a convention, amendments could only be proposed by unanimous consent of the Congress and then ratified by all 13 state legislatures about the only good thing in the articles was the principle of rotation of office, which we call term limits today, but I digress, there were members in Congress that made attempts to amend the articles to address this imbalance of power between the states and the federal government, but they all failed.
Ken Quinn: The frustration over such a weak and ineffective government continued to mount and action was taken that would be the impetus for a new constitution, the next step towards that was the Annapolis convention of 1786.
Philip Blumel: Nick, I understand you received a fan letter this week from a… Let’s call it him a constituent in Canada, will you share that with us, please?
Nick Tomboulides: [chuckle] I think people are fans of term limits, we are here sometimes just the vessels through which that sentiment passes. Yes, this was a letter from a proud Canadian, Cam Finley in Lindsay, Ontario. And Cam writes, “Dear Mr. Tomboulides, I just watched your address to the Senate about term limits, although I am a Canadian, I empathize completely with all that you said and meant. Our Senate in Canada does have a term age limit of 75 years of age, but that is far too long. I congratulate and commend you for your candor regarding term limits in the United States Senate, one can only hope for political courage. Sincerely Cam.”
Philip Blumel: Very nice. Oh I think it’s a fan letter, he watched your address in front of the Senate judiciary sub-committee and he was impressed, and he wrote you a letter and millions of people have watched this, and if any listeners have not watched this yet, you should definitely go to YouTube as soon as this podcast is over and check it out because it is a fabulous address and you’ve gotten a lot of fan mail on this issue and you’re just being humble.
Nick Tomboulides: Forget about my address for a second though. Let’s think of the substance of the letter. The United States is losing in the term limits department to Canada? Canada is whopping our butt in the term limits department, at least in one major way, they have an age limit on their senate and we do not? That’s astounding.
Philip Blumel: It is in fact, you know, I guess I knew that, but he reminded me of it, and so I looked at it again and I’m reminded that the Senate of Canada is similar to the US Senate, it’s about 100 people, I think it’s about 105, but they’re appointed unlike ours, and It’s really sort of based on the British House of Lords versus their House of Commons, and so it’s quite of a different animal. However, they amended their constitution back in 1965 in order to add this 75-year age limit, and it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, and I think that it has a lot of deficiencies relative to, say, a 12-year term limit that we’re suggesting for the US Senate here in the United States. But it’s not meaningless.
Nick Tomboulides: No, imagine if the same limit existed here? Mitch McConnell, gone, Chuck Grassley toast, Patrick Leahy retired. Dick Durbin, hit the bricks.
Philip Blumel: There’d be 14 senators, 14% of the US Senate would be ineligible to be there, including the majority leader of the senate and the minority whip. If we had a 75-year age limit here in United States, the Senate is notoriously an aged group, always has been, it often is made up of people that already served in the House for a generation before they even ran for the senate, and so… Sure, by forcing people out at that age, you would be creating more rotation in office, more open seats, which means open seat elections, which means competitive elections, so you would get a lot of the benefits of a term limit simply by adding that age limit like they have in Canada. So naturally, they spend less time in office than our senators do, by the fact that they have to leave at that age.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I looked this up on the illustrious source, known as Wikipedia, and learned that on average, a Canadian senator only serves about 9.7 years. That was data from 1975 through 2015. And the retirement age was set in 1965, and it is to date one of the only reforms the Senate in Canada has ever made in the 150-plus year history of that chamber.
Philip Blumel: I mean it’s partly because Canadians generally support the idea of term limits, even though there’s very few term limits. In fact, I don’t think there are term limits in Canada beyond the age limits, but there’s been polling from last year that suggests that just like everywhere else, just like in the United States, that the majority of Canadians support the idea of term limits and not just on the Senate, but on the House of Commons, on just about every political position in the country.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, and the support is not as high as it is here, because as compared to the US, they don’t have as much experience with term limits.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: And so there’s a large number of people in the poll who are undecided, and I’m sure if term limits were to catch on in Canada, you would see the support levels go up, but yeah, it’s still very encouraging and we need to get our butts and gear here and catch up to our friends north of the border.
Philip Blumel: Yup. Just to be specific, the poll was sponsored by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, and it showed that 54% of Canadians think term limits are needed, and it went all the way down to city mayors, this poll. The opposition to the idea is not very large, even though the support for it is just over half, at 54%, the percentage of Canadians that said they actually were opposed to the idea, or to be more specific, that it wasn’t necessary, was what? 29%, 17 weren’t sure about the idea, and then 54 said that they were important for elected politicians at all levels of government. Canadians like Americans, like people all over the earth, distrust politicians and want to reduce and limit their power to the best of their ability.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another weekly episode of No Uncertain Terms. All eyes are on Georgia, where two run-off elections in January will decide which party controls the US Senate, but term limits are also on the ballot. It turns out that both run-offs feature one US term limits pledge signer and one US term limits pledge refuser. Oddly, it’s the two incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who have signed the pledge, which commits them to co-sponsoring and voting for the congressional term limits amendment to the US Constitution. Their opponents, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have so far declined to sign the pledge.
Philip Blumel: This week’s action item is for Georgians only. Please, if you live in Georgia, email messages to all four of these candidates, two of them should get thank-yous for signing the pledge, reminding them of their commitment in case they win. Two of them should get friendly encouragement from you to sign the pledge. You can do this at termlimits.com/gasenate. It’ll take you two minutes. Your party registration is not important here, it doesn’t matter who you’re voting for. Go to termlimits.com/gasenate, and send all four candidates a pro term limits message. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms Podcast.