Will Georgia be the next state to call for a convention to term limit Congress? Listen to this week’s 20-min podcast for the latest news and how you can help. Also, Ken Quinn’s final part of his Article V Series “The Myth of the Runaway Convention.”
Philip Blumel: Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of February 8th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: The state of Georgia played an important role in the November election last year as a swing state with a vote total so close that a recount was required. Then in January, two run-off elections decided the control of the US Senate. Will Georgia play a leading role also in calling an amendment proposing convention to limit the terms of the US Congress? Events last week suggest it just might. Let’s get the details from US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey, Nick.
Philip Blumel: Let me know what’s going on down there in Georgia. I understand that the bill has been introduced in the Senate, and we got some big hitters lining up to support us.
Nick Tomboulides: Some very heavy hitters. Yes, it’s been introduced in the State Senate and the State House. In the State Senate, the lead sponsor is Senator Bill Cowsert, who is a former Senate majority leader. And he has packed a lot of punch into this resolution because he has debuted it with 16 sponsors and co-sponsors. That’s very good. That’s a significant portion of the Georgia senate, which only has 56 members.
Philip Blumel: Have we passed the Georgia Senate before?
Nick Tomboulides: We’ve passed the Georgia Senate before, but every two years the session resets, so we have to pass it again if we’re intent on getting through Georgia in the 2021 through 2022 session.
Philip Blumel: I see. So we have two shots. If we pass the Senate this year and we don’t pass the House, we can still pass the House next year.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s correct, yes. And we’ve also been filed in the House by Representative Beth Camp, she is a new state legislator in Georgia. She has introduced HR-39, and she’s come with six co-sponsors. So we’ve got action in the Georgia State House and action in the Georgia State Senate.
Philip Blumel: Oh, that is great. We didn’t pass the House last time. I guess that was the sticking point.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. We have been thus far not able to bring it for a vote in the House. We have asked the Speaker for votes on numerous occasions, it has not materialized, but we kind of have an X-factor in Georgia this year, and that is our new Georgia State Chairman, Dr. John Cowan. This week there was a press conference in Atlanta in the State Capitol, Dr. John Cowan joined Senator Cowsert and Representative Camp, and they basically laid down the facts, and they said they’re gonna do everything they can to pass the term limits convention this session. They’re gonna be fighting very, very hard. And Dr. Cowan has already met with the State House Speaker.
Philip Blumel: Great. We have audio of that press conference. Let’s listen to it in its entirety, because I think this is a really impressive crew to be pushing the Term Limits Convention Bill.
John Cowan: What the specific initiative we’re working on here today is to try to get the State of Georgia to take a small step that will result in a giant leap for this country. And that step is to allow us to participate in a Term Limits Convention. And this would allow us to bring people from all over the United States to discuss how we might limit the terms of US congressmen and US senators. I’m excited to be joined by Senator Cowsert and Representative Beth Camp, who are separately working on this legislation in both of the Houses. And I wanna distinguish this from the state level, where we as US term limits feel is very important. We really feel that to begin to heal some of the wounds and some of the problems of entrenchment and celebrity status of some of these individuals in Washington, DC, that we need to return it to servant leadership, that you leave your plow shares for a time, go up and serve in the federal government, and then come back home to serve the people in your previous capacity. So with that, I would like to introduce representative Beth Camp who will talk about the initiative in more detail. Thank you.
Beth Camp: Good afternoon. This is very exciting for me, this is my first press conference, and I’m excited that it is on United States Term Limits. Being a person who is very supportive of our government, I wanna make it clear that it’s very important for us to understand the difference between someone who serves 40 days a year, as we do in the Georgia legislature, versus someone who’s a full-time person. Albeit, they do have home addresses, they in essence live full-time in Washington DC, which I’m sure if you lived elsewhere, it’d be very difficult to acclimate and understand exactly what’s going on in your home. So the reason term limits are so important, as Dr. Cowan alluded, we have celebrity status. There are some people in Congress that have been serving as long as I’ve been on Earth, and that makes it very challenging when they’re not at their home and understanding what it’s like to be an American and be a citizen.
Beth Camp: So that’s the reason why I’m supporting term limits, this term limit resolution, which I put forth as House Resolution 39. And it clearly states that Georgia could take part in a articles of state convention where the only thing that could be discussed would be term limits. So it’s very limiting in that scope, and it’s an opportunity for us to take a step towards taking back our country, making it clear that we’re not interested in long-term elected leaders who preside over us, rather we want people to represent us. Thank you. I’d like to introduce Senator Bill Cowsert.
Bill Cowsert: Thank you, Representative. It’s a pleasure to be here today. I thought I might just expound a little bit on the Article V amendment process. We’re talking about an amendment to the United States Constitution here today, because this would be a limit on the term limits of our United States Congress and United States Senate. Article V of the United States Constitution sets forth two methods to both propose and ratify amendments to our Constitution. It was intended, at the original document, that it would need to be amended over time to adapt to changing circumstances and times. Two mechanisms for doing that. One is that the United States Congress, by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate, might propose an amendment to the Constitution, and then send that amendment to the states for ratification. It takes three-fourths of the states to ratify any proposed amendment to the Constitution.
Bill Cowsert: There’s an alternative method though that allows the states to apply to Congress to call a convention, an amendment convention, for the limited purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Georgia needs to get in line with the other states that have already called for it, and we need to keep searching nationwide to come up with 34 states, and then Congress will call the amendment convention. The states, through their joint action, will come up with the proposed amendment and send it back to the states for three-fourths ratification. So it’s a unique provision in the US Constitution, rarely used in history, but it’s for this type of circumstance where the United States Congress is unlikely to limit their own terms of office. It’s not in their self-interest to do that. These men and women that serve in Congress seem to be embedded there. They get in office and they have such inherent advantages of incumbency.
Bill Cowsert: I think the stats are somewhere over 94% of incumbents win their elections in Congress. Part of that’s ’cause of their financial advantage. The special interests will always contribute to the incumbents, those that can help them and have a relationship, and it makes it extraordinarily difficult for any outsider to break in to represent our constituents. So this is the preferred method of amending the US Constitution insofar it applies to the United States Congress’ own terms of office. So we are very optimistic that the Georgia legislature will join the other states that have called for this type of convention, and we hope to see progress this year, both in Georgia and in other states. Thank y’all for being here today.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. We ask candidates for Congress to sign a pledge to help us get a Term Limits Amendment into the US Constitution. The pledge reads, “I pledge that as a member of the US Congress, I will co-sponsor and vote for the US Term Limits Amendment of three House terms and two Senate terms and no longer limit.” Every two years when a new session of Congress starts, the Term Limits Amendment must be introduced again. The current resolution is HJR-12 in the US House, and we currently have 53 co-sponsors, five of those are new this week. At the same point last cycle, we only had 32 co-sponsors. We are making progress. You can help us by contacting your representative and asking them to sign the pledge and to co-sponsor HJR-12. For more ways to help, search US Term Limits on Facebook, like and follow our national page and the page for your state. Thank you.
Philip Blumel: So what of our prospects then in Georgia? Given this team, given our co-sponsors, given our history, what’s our prospects realistically for passing in one or both Houses this year?
Nick Tomboulides: I think the prospects are good. Obviously, the team has hit the ground running, but politicians talking to other politicians, and one very influential person talking to other politicians is not going to suffice. We’re obviously gonna need to generate enthusiasm on the grassroots side of Georgia. We need people from all over the state to get off the sidelines, contact their state legislators, let them know how important this is. Otherwise, no one person or no small group of people can make it happen, it needs to be a huge grassroots groundswell. So that’s what we need to get started in Georgia.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, that’s particularly true with an issue like term limits more than any other. Now, we have a couple of tools for that, so I would urge all Georgians that are listening to please take some action right now. We have a new page at termlimits.com/takeaction. Now, if you go there and you look at Georgia, you’ll see a progress bar. You see that the bill has been introduced, they haven’t got their first committee vote yet, but you can see the timeline that we’ll mark it as we reach these different milestones. But when you go to the Georgia progress bar, you’ll see a button that says “Take action”. Click it. That will allow you to send messages to your legislators to tell them to support this legislation. That’s number one.
Philip Blumel: Two, Term Limits Day is coming up. February 27th, it’s a Saturday. Do something and encourage your neighbors to do something that shows public support for the idea of term limits, crucial in Georgia right now. Putting a sticker on your car, putting a yard sign in your yard, whatever it is that you’d like to do, make sure that these politicians that live in our midst see support for term limits. So Georgia is exciting. What else do we have going on around the states, Nick?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, if you look at the landscape of term limits and the Article V convention, this year I think we’re gonna hit a record number of state legislatures that have filed a resolution to term limit Congress. We’re already up to nine, and there are more on the way. This has been introduced in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and now North Dakota is the latest that has been introduced as of this broadcast.
Philip Blumel: Good news. Excellent. Now, all of these states are also included on the progress page at termlimits.com/takeaction. So anyone that lives in any of these states, please go to that page and take action.
Nick Tomboulides: Imagine if 10 states make the call for the term limits convention, what kind of powerful message would that send to Washington, DC? Imagine if five states made the call. It only took five states to call for presidential term limits before Congress saw the writing on the wall and did it themselves. I mean, we can get a tremendous boost out of this and we can send a powerful message to Washington DC if we get this done.
Philip Blumel: Right. We could pass one state a year to get to 34, and it would take us another roughly 30 years. And that’s not the way this is gonna happen. If we’re gonna be successful, there’s going to be a groundswell, and it’s gonna come as we start getting a bunch of states. And there’s a year out there, and maybe it’s this year or maybe it’s next, where we’re gonna get half a dozen states, 10 states all in one year, and this issue is gonna blow the doors off and it’s gonna be a front page issue, and we’re gonna be within shooting distance to get this thing done. It’s out there looming. We gotta help it along.
Kenn Quinn: Hi, this can Kenn Quinn, Regional Director with US Term Limits. In this segment of Exposing the Myth of the Runaway Convention, we are going to examine the opponents’ claim that the framers of the Constitution also violated their authority by changing their ratification requirement from unanimous consent to only nine states, and having it confirmed by the people instead of the state legislatures. This charge, as you will recall, is based upon the falsehood that Congress called the federal convention for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and that unanimous consent by the legislatures was required to amend it. The reason for requiring unanimous consent was not due to the Articles of Confederation, but because the delegates were creating a new compact between sovereign states, and the long-established principle of a new treaty required unanimous consent.
Kenn Quinn: In fact, Congress even admitted that the convention was not called under their authority when they were debating the Constitution on September 27th, 1787. “A constitution for the United States to be submitted with to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature for their assent and ratification, which constitution appears to be intended as an entire system in itself and not as any part of or alteration in the articles of confederation, to alterations in which articles, the deliberations and powers of Congress are in this case constitutionally confined. The members of Congress not feeling themselves authorized by the forms of government under which they are assembled to an express an opinion respecting a system of government no way connected with those forms.”
Kenn Quinn: In Federalist 40, James Madison examined the commissions given to the delegates by their legislatures to determine the authority granted to them and notes whether they reference the broad language from the Annapolis Report or the limited language from the Congressional Report, or both. He explained how the delegates did not exceed their authority and also addressed the changing of the ratification requirements. “In one particular, it is admitted that the convention have departed from the tenor of their commission. Instead of reporting a plan requiring the confirmation of the legislatures of all the states, they have reported a plan which is to be confirmed by the people and may be carried into effect by nine states only.”
Kenn Quinn: Now, this is only my opinion, but I think Madison was so focused on the language from the Annapolis Convention, which recommended the Constitution be confirmed by the legislatures of every state, that he simply forgot to examine the wording from the act from Virginia, which actually called the Convention and did not specifically mention the legislatures, but “confirmed by the several states”. This allowed for the Constitution to be approved by either the legislatures or the people. Madison did not waste much time addressing this point because the Anti-federalists were not attacking this as much as they were attacking other points of the Constitution. He briefly explained how power is derived from the people and attacked the absurdity of the unanimous consent requirement for amending a constitution, which they knew all too well because of the refusal of the state of Rhode Island to agree to any amendments to the Articles of Confederation, and that prohibited correcting any of its faults.
Kenn Quinn: Even the small mission by Madison vanishes in the wind once we take a look at the context of his remarks. Federalist 40 was published on January 18th, 1788, only four short months after the Constitution was adopted and the ratification process by the states was just beginning. Each state legislature approved the new ratification requirement of only nine states by calling conventions of the people to ratify the Constitution. When it was all said and done, the state legislatures unanimously approved the ratification requirements, and the people unanimously ratified the Constitution. If you ever hear an opponent make this charge against the Constitution, please direct them to read Federalist 40 to set the record straight.
Nick Tomboulides: Phil, would you like to talk about the communist dictator of Vietnam?
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Sure. You must be referring to old Nguy?n Phú Tr?ng.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, Nguy?n Phú Tr?ng is back in the news and he is exceeding his constitutionally-prescribed term limits. Apparently in Vietnam, the evil communist dictator only gets either two terms in office or has to retire at the age of 65, but Mr. Tr?ng is 75 years of age, and his party and leadership has just agreed to let him stay beyond his term limit. They were looking at a successor, he tried to choose a successor, but the party which he controls rejected that successor, so he just said, “Okay, I’m gonna stick around.”
Philip Blumel: Okay, well, that’s great. He’s one of the few true old-style communist dictators in the world. We’ve seen liberalization in Vietnam, but nowhere to the extent that we’ve seen in other communist countries. And of course, there’s no political freedom in Vietnam. And that’s unlikely to change when you have the same party, the same leader in power year after year after year. The Communists have been in power now for 45 years, they don’t allow anyone else to run. Where is change supposed to come from? Well, the party recognizing, like all organizations, theoretically, that strength… That you get strength from new ideas and by permitting some kind of rotation. But when it comes to actual down to doing it, meaning stepping down and relinquishing power as a practical matter, they don’t wanna do it. It sounds like politicians elsewhere that we’re familiar with.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, if I close my eyes, I wouldn’t really know if I was talking about a dictator or, say, the Michigan State Legislature. I wouldn’t know if I was talking about a dictator or Mike Bloomberg, because all politicians scheme to get out from under their term limits. This guy is obviously not a great analogy, this guy’s Congress meets every five years. It is a commie dictatorship, they don’t have the same constitutional protections that we do, but still, this type of anti-democratic, anti-term limits hostility is eerily similar to what we see from many American politicians.
Philip Blumel: Yeah. The truth is that politicians anywhere and under any system have the same incentives to maintain and keep power and enrich themselves. There’s no exceptions, and so it’s worth pointing out that this goes on elsewhere, not just in the USA.
Nick Tomboulides: By the way, it says in the article that this guy put three journalists in prison for criticizing him, sentences between 15 and 20 years.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Geez. Well, that’s worse than getting locked out of Twitter.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another weekly episode of No Uncertain Terms. For this week’s action item, I point you to a great new tool found at termlimits.com/takeaction. This site is a progress report of all of our target states for advancing the Term Limits Convention Bills in 2021. The site will tell you where the Term Limits Convention Bill stands in your state, whether it’s been introduced or even passed one or more committee votes, so you can track its progress. If it’s been introduced in your state, there’s a Take Action button which allows you to quickly and easily send the relevant legislators a message urging them to support the bill. It will take two minutes. You can find this progress report at termlimits.com/takeaction. Thank you, and Happy Term Limits Day, February 27th. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms Podcast.