Question: What key political issue can help unite a divided country? Answer: Congressional Term Limits. USTL executive director Nick Tomboulides discusses the possibilities. Also, field director Scott Tillman and regional director Ken Quinn deliver weekly updates…
Philip Blumel: Let’s start afresh. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of January 25th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Last week, a new president was inaugurated. In his address, President Joe Biden called for unity, saying, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.” That seems a tall order in a divided country after a contentious election stained by anger and ill will. But if there’s one issue that bridges the divide between Republican and Democrat voters, it’s congressional term limits. Let’s investigate the possibilities with US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides.
Nick Tomboulides: Looking at Joe Biden’s career here, he has spent three years as a County Commissioner, 36 years as a Delaware Senator, eight years as Vice President, and now he is the 45th President of the United States. No, he’s not the 46th. Grover Cleveland doesn’t count twice. So 47 years in elected politics, and Joe Biden, in his inaugural address mentioned unity eight times. He said, “With unity, we can do great things. Without unity, there is no peace. Unity is the path forward.” But the question now becomes, Is this reality? Or is this just rhetoric? Because politicians rarely define unity like you or I do, or like Webster’s Dictionary does, they define it as having their own agenda and jamming it down everyone’s throat in the hopes we all will miraculously unify behind it. Donald Trump, wanted everyone to unify behind a wall and cracking down on China. Joe Biden wants everyone to unify around… What does Joe Biden wanna do? Expanding Obamacare and cracking down on climate change.
Nick Tomboulides: But the real definition of unity is listening to the American people and asking what already unifies the public, because you can’t force people into unity, you have to look for where common ground exists. And it is a simple fact that we live in the most polarized era since the Civil War. Biden acknowledges this, he called it an uncivil war. So the road to true unity runs through bipartisan issues, through issues that the American people agree on regardless of party or ideology. The road to unity runs through passing term limits. Why would or why could a 47-year career politician come out for term limits? Well, why not? It’s never too late to actually listen to the people, it’s never too late to do the right thing, it is actually much dumber politically to be stubborn, to continue being wrong and thumping your nose at the people, than to just say, “You know what, in the name of unity, I admit it, I was wrong. I’m gonna change my position. I respect the people enough to give term limits a fair shot.” Why can’t Joe Biden say that? That would be very popular, his approval ratings would spike dramatically in the aftermath of such a statement.
Nick Tomboulides: Now, of course, it is unlikely because Joe Biden has been around a while, he’s changed a few of his key positions, he probably wouldn’t have been president if he hadn’t changed a few of them, especially in the Democratic primary, which is very difficult to win, but as they say, old dogs don’t tend to learn new tricks. Believe it or not, we’ve actually been in discussion with a few people on the Biden team, not Biden himself, but people who are in that White House or heading into that White House who surprisingly, they haven’t dismissed the idea totally out of hand. Let’s just hope they don’t rely on the same excuses that other presidents have, which is, Oh, this is a decision for Congress, Congress proposed this constitutional amendment, and the President has no role in the process, or two-thirds of state legislatures call for a term limits convention, which could either propose term limits on its own, or it could pressure Congress to act.
Nick Tomboulides: So, it is true that from a constitutional standpoint, the President has no official role in the amending process, he would have no official legal role in making term limits happen, but that doesn’t mean the President can’t use his bully pulpit. A president can beat up congressional leaders to act. A president has the national platform, has the voice needed to pressure politicians at the state level, politicians at the federal level to pass term limits. So, a presidential endorsement could be a potential game changer. You know the word flip-flop, it’s become a dirty word in politics, but there’s really nothing wrong with a politician flip-flopping to the correct position. Our problem is that too often they don’t change their position, too often they stay dug in, they dig in their heels on something they really don’t believe, and that’s really not good for the country. But it’s in their own self-interest. If Joe Biden wants to live up to his own rhetoric that he gave in his inaugural speech, if he truly wants to unify the country, the only way to do that is by embracing term limits.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. Amendments to the Constitution can be proposed by states calling for an amendment convention, or by Congress proposing an amendment. Every two years, a new session of Congress starts and new legislation is introduced. This January, we are again working to get co-sponsors onto the term limits amendment resolution in Congress. The legislation introduced in the US House is HJR 12, and we currently have 37 co-sponsors. That may not sound like many, but two years ago at the same point in the cycle, we had 26 co-sponsors, we are making progress.
Scott Tillman: Even though the nation is feeling election fatigue, certain districts will not be getting a break. Many special elections have already been scheduled. There are several thousand seats that come open every two years between state legislatures and Congress, and special elections to fill seats happen often for many reasons. Most commonly, legislators are appointed to openings in the new executive administrations, like the incoming presidential administration, or one of the many governor administrations around the country. We expect seats in Congress to open as the Biden administration fills positions. And California will need to replace Senator Harris now that she’ll be Vice President. That will likely be an appointment by the governor, but they may call a special election to fill out the rest of the term.
Scott Tillman: There are currently two special congressional elections scheduled, both in Louisiana. One seat is open due to a death, and the other Congress member will be filling a position with the Biden administration. Special elections for 22 state legislative seats have already been scheduled, and this week we’ve received pledges from five candidates in those races. Candidates are getting great attention when they sign the Term Limits Pledge. If you have access to a candidate, please ask them to sign our pledge. Pledges are available at termlimits.com.
Nick Tomboulides: Now, let’s briefly turn our attention on the convention. Term limits convention bills have now been filed in five states: Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee. It’s also pending in Iowa, North Dakota, and West Virginia. These are significant milestones. And you… Yes, you loyal podcast listener can play a role in helping advance this legislation and making term limits into a reality. Go on our website, termlimits.com/takeaction. When you go to that page, you will find a series of calls to action in all of these states that will let you send a message directly to your legislator, asking them to co-sponsor and support the term limits convention. It just takes a few clicks and you can use the message that we have prepared for you or you can write your own, you can customize a message to your state legislator, you can tell them why term limits are important to you.
Nick Tomboulides: Remember, most of the time, these legislators are hearing from lobbyists, they’re hearing from the ruling class, they’re hearing from staff, bureaucrats, political elites inside the capital, that is who is influencing them. They are hearing from these insiders 99 times for every one time that they hear from constituents, and the COVID era has made it even harder because the state capitals, the people who set the rules are erecting all these barriers that make it tougher than ever for you to contact your legislators. But we have simplified the process. Like I said, term limits convention, it’s been filed in five states, there are a lot more coming down the pike, you can read a little bit about that on our website, and you can get these calls to action at termlimits.com/take action.
Nick Tomboulides: And by the way, if you live in the State of Florida, and I know many of our listeners do, I live in the State of Florida, term limits convention has already passed in Florida, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive on this issue. School board term limits are back, it has been filed in the Florida House as House Joint Resolution 11. And we also have a link at the Take Action page where you can blast out a message in support of school board term limits, so there is literally something for everyone on our website. Check it out.
Kenn Quinn: Hi, this is Kenn Quinn, Regional Director with US Term Limits. In our last segment of exposing the myth of the runaway convention, we saw that the Philadelphia Convention was called by the State of Virginia in response to the recommendation of the Annapolis Convention. The purpose of the convention was for, “devising and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the union.” This act was passed on October 16, 1786. Immediately, the states began to take action by appointing commissioners and empowering them with specific authority in their credentials. Four months after Virginia’s call, Congress issued a report on February 21, 1787, which stated the following: “Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.”
Kenn Quinn: Today, the opponents of Article V lift this report out of context to claim that Congress, officially called the Philadelphia Convention, they do this to make it appear that the Convention exceeded their authority by going beyond simply revising the articles, and therefore it became a runaway convention. And the same thing would happen today if an Article V convention was ever called. They intentionally neglect to share that this report was only the opinion of Congress and had no binding authority on the states whatsoever, because Congress had no authority to even call such a convention. By making this false claim, they not only lie about our constitutional history, but they dishonor the framers of our Constitution by claiming they illegally adopted it. You do not have to read very far into the notes taken at the Federal Convention to see that the framers understood the broad authority granted them by their legislatures.
Kenn Quinn: On May 29th, the first working day of the convention, Virginia, the very state that called the convention, introduced a plan with 15 resolutions expanding the Articles of Confederation beyond recognition. Enclosing 10 of the 12 states provided their commissioners the broad powers as stated in the call from Virginia and the recommendation from the Annapolis Convention, New York and Massachusetts limited their commissioners to the recommendation from Congress. In the end, 36 of the 39 signers of the constitution had full authority to propose a new constitution under the powers given them from their state legislatures. Although Alexander Hamilton signed the Constitution for New York, his signature is merely symbolic and does not count because the other two commissioners left the convention in mid-July and New York no longer had a vote at the convention from that point on. The remaining two commissioners from Massachusetts, Nathaniel Gorham and Rufus King, did sign the Constitution. Obviously, they must have believed that their duty was the preservation of the union over the preservation of the weak and ineffective Articles of Confederation. The end result of this runaway convention is the greatest governing document the world has ever seen.
Philip Blumel: To start 2021, there are two important calls to action that we hope you choose to answer, the first is taking action in your state to promote the term limits convention bill. A new page has been set up to track the movement of the term limits convention bills and take action. Go to termlimits.com/takeaction and find your state to see if the bill has been introduced yet. If so, hit the Take Action button and send a quick message to your state legislator, it’ll take two minutes. Also, mark your calendars for term limits day, February 27th. What will you do to show support for term limits in your community? New this year is term limits state lapel pins that can be worn on the days leading up to term limits day, February 27th. To order your pin, send an email to term limits day at termlimits.com. For other merch such as T-shirts, bumper stickers and yard signs, go to our website under the Shop tab or go to termlimits.com/shop. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have No Uncertain Terms podcast.