Philip Blumel: A down payment on real-term limits. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of April 19, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: A high-profile retirement announcement in the US House and a shocking unanimous and bipartisan committee vote in Illinois last week put the spotlight on leadership term limits. Do they matter? Or maybe a better question is, do they matter enough? Let’s ask Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of US Term Limits. Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Let’s rumble. [chuckle]
Philip Blumel: You probably heard the news that Representative Kevin Brady, 13-term legislator from Texas, is retiring from the US House, and this is after he was… He is of the Ways and Means Committee, which is one of the most important and powerful committees in the US House. What I find really interesting about it is the reasons why he gave for his retirement.
Nick Tomboulides: What did he say?
Philip Blumel: Well, he said that, among other things, ’cause this isn’t the only reason, but he said, “As you may not know, because House Republicans limit committee leaders to six-year terms, I won’t be able to chair the Ways and Means Committee in the next session when Republicans went back the majority. Did that factor into the decision? Yeah, some.” [chuckle] So, term limits played a role in the retirement of this long-term powerful congressman. What do you think?
Nick Tomboulides: I’m gonna translate that Washington speak into English.
Philip Blumel: Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: “I was offered a very lucrative job with a lobbying company.”
Philip Blumel: Yeah, that’s right.
Nick Tomboulides: No. I’m just kidding, folks, just kidding. That never happens. As we know, our congressmen are always on the up and up in this country. But this is interesting and it does get at the heart of the matter on these committee term limits, because we talk about whether they’re effective, we talk about the impact. And he said it’s a major reason why he’s retiring, so not only do these committee term limits help when a member just gets off the committee, stays in Congress, and then a newbie, or not a newbie, but someone with a fresh perspective can come in on that committee. But it also gets more congressmen to retire because they don’t want to be in Congress when they don’t have real power. They’re just kind of sitting around like house plants when they’re not chairing these committees.
Philip Blumel: Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: And I was looking at some numbers. The last wave you had of these chairmanship retirements, about 40% of the chairmen, Republican chairs, ’cause the Democrats don’t term limit anybody, about 40% of the Republican chairs who are term limited out of their committees retired from Congress. That’s a good start.
Philip Blumel: That’s in 2020, prior to the 2020 elections. That’s right. That’s a down payment on the kind of rotation in office that we want to see from the entire body, so it matters. It provides an opportunity for other members to have their opportunity to have some power in the Congress, ’cause otherwise those seats would be held by the same people pretty much forever.
Nick Tomboulides: Committee chair term limits are like the Great Value brand term limits. It’s a knock-off of what we’re really trying to do, it’s not the name brand. The name brand is the constitutional amendment that we’re trying to enact. This is a knock-off, it’s great value, it’s what you order or what you get on Wish when you order from them. But it’s still somewhat effective at achieving what we’re trying to do, and it’s a great case study for how term limits can work even when they’re not applied that severely.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. The Republicans are the only ones that impose House term limits on the committees in the House, but it also is a teaching moment for the Democrats who currently don’t. There’s a lot of Democrats, young ones in particular, who look at what the Republicans are doing, and like it. I remember that former Democratic Caucus Chair, John Larson, Democrat from Connecticut, he argued that a number of people would say, “Republicans have struck a better formula for advancement.” And “advancement” is the key word there, because when you enter the House, you’re so far away from the levers of power, it’s the committee chairs that really have that power. Well, okay, so you play the game and you get to a position where you have that power. Well, when you have rotation in office, rotation in these positions, in these committees, you have an opportunity to do that. But without that rotation, you’ll never get there. And young Democrats in the House recognize that, and they really want to see some movement and leadership to give their selves a day in the sun.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And it hasn’t just been John Larson. There have been many others who have… On the Democratic side, to their credit, who have complained about the lack of term limits in that caucus. I think Seth Moulton might have been one of them.
Philip Blumel: That’s right, he was.
Nick Tomboulides: I’ve heard a lot of rumblings about that. And it really is fascinating and it shines a light on the existence of a Congress member who is not a committee chairman or a ranking member on a committee. “What are you really doing there?”
Philip Blumel: Nothing.
Nick Tomboulides: You’re just kind of sitting around. You’re doing television interviews, you have a title, and you do get to meet with your constituents, but you don’t have real power unless you’re part of this seniority system. And obviously that mobility, that upward mobility, in Congress is based not on who’s the most qualified for different roles but it’s on who’s got the most grey hairs, who’s got the most years under their belt, which is just a terrible system if you’re looking for progress and a functional system.
Philip Blumel: All the power is in the committees, is in the committee chairs in particular. And there’s been studies that show that the committee chairs are much more effective. I’m looking at a study from the Legislative Effectiveness Project here that suggests that committee chairs that have been a committee chair for a certain number of years have about six times as much likelihood as being able to advance a bill than someone on a committee that has been there for less than a period of time. So, it’s a big, big difference.
Nick Tomboulides: There are a lot of studies out there that come from Brookings and some of these other stupid Washington think tanks that judge your effectiveness based on how many bills you’re able to advance.
Philip Blumel: I don’t buy that.
Nick Tomboulides: No, I don’t buy that at all. The hallmark of effectiveness is not necessarily dumping a pile of thousands of new laws on to the American people, making life even more ridiculous here, but sometimes it’s the ability to stop a bad law from being enacted. And if you don’t have a committee chairmanship, you can’t even do that. You’re powerless to stop a lot of these bad laws from coming down the pike.
Philip Blumel: That’s right.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. We ask candidates for Congress to sign a pledge that will help us get a term limits amendment added to the US Constitution. The pledge reads, “I pledge that as a member 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 Ralph Normans, HJR12 in the US House. This week, three additional co-sponsors were added, Jared Golden of Maine, Jodey Arrington of Texas, and Mark Green of Tennessee, bringing our total to 65 co-sponsors and sponsors in the US House. At the same point last cycle, we only had 36 co-sponsors. The Senate resolution is SJR3 introduced by Senator Cruz. Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, co-sponsored this week, which brings our total to 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. At this point last cycle, we only had 12. We are making significant progress. You can help by contacting your representatives and asking them to sign the pledge and to co-sponsor HJR12 or SJR3. For more ways to help search US Term Limits on Facebook and like and follow our national page and the page for your state.”
Philip Blumel: The North Carolina State House passed the term limits convention resolution on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Crucial to this victory was North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, who helped push the bill through his chamber. But Moore isn’t done yet. After the vote, Moore is still talking up the bill as it makes its way through the North Carolina Senate. If the North Carolina Senate follows the House’s lead, North Carolina will be the fifth state to officially call for the term limits convention. Here is speaker Moore on Newsmax on April 2. As captured by the Newsmax Daily podcast with wild man Rob Carson.
Rob Carson: Let’s go to Grant Stinchfield show. He spoke to House Speaker of North Carolina, Tim Moore about the possibility of convention of states because of overreaching federal government. Conservatives have been talking about this since the campaign, since Joe Biden won the election. Here he is.
Rob Carson: My biggest fear about something like this is, alright, we get the convention and then you get the radical left coming in and offering up all kinds of wild amendments.
Tim Moore: Well, this particular resolution that we passed that so many other states have passed is very narrowly drafted so that the only issue that can be taken up at that convention would be in fact term limits.
Rob Carson: It’s time for the states to fight back against dictatorial rule, and that’s what happening with 56 executive orders and the Capitol surrounded by thousands of National Guard troops and razor ribbon.
Tim Moore: And it’s no accident that states are having to take the lead on this because it’s actually one of the few priorities that were in the Contract for America from 1994 that were not ultimately decided, something…
Rob Carson: We are being ruled against our will.
Tim Moore: Very proud of the fact that our state House of Representatives passed this a couple of weeks ago. It now is over in the State Senate, and what it would do of course, if the 34 states joined in would be to call for the constitutional convention for the only purpose of establishing term limits, and I firmly believe that is something that we need in Congress.
Rob Carson: I agree with that completely. Here’s a little bit more on Tim Moore about term limits.
Rob Carson: We’ve got big problems without term limits, don’t we?
Tim Moore: We really do right now, and you can just look and see the encroachment that the federal government is attempting to do right now with this, and you’ve covered this very well with just how far they’re looking to go on House Resolution One to essentially try to hijack the states when it comes to administering the elections. Many of the other things that federal government’s doing, just printing money and spending debt that our children and grandchildren will be paying. And I think many Americans have decided enough is enough. The time is right.
Rob Carson: We are at our wits’ end.
Tim Moore: For a lot of reforms, and one of those…
Rob Carson: And our patience…
Tim Moore: Is certainly term limits, and so this resolution passed by a majority in our State House and it’s now in the Senate, and my hope is, is that 34 states total will pass this resolution and we can have this constitutional convention, and it will also give a chance for the states to assert some authority…
Rob Carson: It’s time to do that.
Philip Blumel: The Democratic leadership is so much older than the Republican leadership in the House, because Republican leadership retire when they basically term out of their positions on committees. Democrats don’t…
Nick Tomboulides: I think the last time we looked at that, we found the average tenure… Average life tenure in Congress of a Democrat who had a gavel on one of the most powerful committees like Ways and Means was around 25 years.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. Now, there’s interesting news down from the states on the subject too. In fact, it’s just a committee vote, but it’s pretty significant when you hear about where it occurred and why. But in the State of Illinois, of all places, there was a committee vote held last week, unanimous and bipartisan polling for term limits on the major leadership positions in the Illinois House.
Nick Tomboulides: At this point, I would trust a term limits bill coming out of North Korea or Uganda or Cuba [laughter] more than I would Illinois after the Michael Madigan 37-year reign of terror as a speaker there. But it’s a good start obviously.
Philip Blumel: It is. This is a state that is totally shut down, calls for term limits, which have been noisier than just about any other state, because the level of corruption has been so high, the number of people in top positions, including the former House Speaker, Michael Madigan, who is now likely to go to prison, or certainly his confederates are going to for this massive corruption scandal after he’s had that position for 37 years. And so the fact that a term limits bill could make any advancement there, and particularly on a bipartisan unanimous basis, it’s newsworthy, at least to me.
Nick Tomboulides: It is, and the limit they’re suggesting is 10 years, right?
Philip Blumel: Well, that’s correct, it’s 10 years, but it’s on the House Speaker, the Senate President, and the two minority leaders in each chamber, so it’s basically the top dogs.
Nick Tomboulides: Again, it’s a start. I will say this, Florida, which is the most well-run state in the country, is a leader in fiscal health, has a limit on the speaker of only two years, and that seems to work pretty well, so I think even 10 is too long, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. It’s notable really because of the place, being Illinois, because this is a place where the people are clamoring for this and the environment is so ripe for it, so we shouldn’t let this opportunity get by.
Nick Tomboulides: And when they have to do it, they need to do it in such a way that the speaker himself does not have discretion to simply erase the limit at the end of the 10-year period. That’s what we saw in Massachusetts, where the speaker, Bob DeLeo, many years ago, imposed a term limit on himself, and then once he hit the limit legally, he was able to say, “I don’t feel like leaving.” [chuckle] And he just stuck around for another six years or whatever, so you gotta make sure that doesn’t happen here.
Philip Blumel: No, that’s right. Well, this legislation is still being formed. It just passed its first committee, and we’ll see where it goes from here, but I thought it was noteworthy bringing up, particularly in the discussion of leadership term limits.
Philip Blumel: Glenn Jacobs, the Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, may still be best known as the professional wrestler, Kane, his alter ego with the WWE since the mid-1990s, but he’s making a mark in his new role as mayor since the libertarian-leaning Republican won his first election in 2018. While the Tennessee State legislature is considering the term limits convention resolution, Mayor Jacobs weighed in at a crucial time with an op-ed in the Knox News calling for its passage. Nick Tomboulides spoke with the Mayor on Friday.
Nick Tomboulides: Mayor Jacobs, you have a brand new op-ed in the Knoxville Sentinel calling for congressional term limits, talking about the role that Tennessee plays in that process. Tell us, why do you believe in term limits, and why is the issue important to you?
Glenn Jacobs: Well, when we consider the intent of the founders, when they established the federal government and Congress, who is to have citizen legislators, and those were people that would still be part of their community and represent folks at the federal level. I think that we can all agree at this point, that has been completely lost and there are way too many career politicians in Washington, DC. So, anything that we can do to really burst the DC bubble… If you’ve ever been to DC, it almost feels like there’s this bubble that surrounds the place, and they’re inside it, and we’re all on the outside, and it’s actually kind of an eerie feeling to be there.
Glenn Jacobs: So the issue is, I think a lot of times, folks get there and they wanna do some good stuff, and then they kinda get frustrated, and then they get comfortable, and then next thing you know, they’re just there. And we really need to give other people an opportunity to serve in Congress. And when we look at things like the incumbency victory rate, some folks will say that elections are term limits, and certainly there’s an argument being made there, but the way the system currently works, with all the money involved, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to unseat an incumbent. It very rarely happens. So I just think that that’s something that could really change Congress and the overall complexion of how the federal government functions, and it would be very good for the country.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, you mentioned it’s a bubble. Some people call it a swamp. Normally when people are running for office, they’ll call it a swamp, and I think Ronald Reagan said, once they get there, they realize it’s more like a hot tub and they get comfortable…
Glenn Jacobs: Exactly. [chuckle]
Nick Tomboulides: And they don’t wanna leave. So I think you hit the nail on the head there. So, in Tennessee, the resolution for the term limits convention, it just passed the State House, House Joint Resolution Eight. It still needs to get through the State Senate. As a supporter of this, are you planning to barnstorm a little bit around Tennessee to help get this done? Are you gonna get involved? I know it’s the state legislature, but you have a pretty good pulpit there as the mayor of Knox County.
Glenn Jacobs: Right, yeah. And then of course, I had the op-ed, and anything else that I can do to help the effort. When I look at term limits, and I look at the people that have signed the US Term Limits Pledge, it’s people like my own Congressman, Tim Burchett, Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, Ted Cruz. It’s all the people that I look at, if they think it’s a good idea, it’s probably a really good idea. And I think that here in Tennessee, our General Assembly through the years has done a very good job. Tennessee is a great place to live, to work, to raise a family. We’re one of the most business-friendly states in the country. We’re seeing people move here from other parts of the country. So certainly, I think with the Senate that it has a very good chance of passing, and kudos to the House for doing what they’ve already done.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, you guys have a citizen legislature there.
Glenn Jacobs: We do.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s like I tell people, I live in Florida, and if I’m mad at my state representative, I can grab him by the shoulder at the grocery store and say, “Hey, what’s the hell are you doing?” [chuckle] You can’t really do that with members of Congress who are a thousand miles away, out in this bubble. So term limits is a good way to hold ’em accountable. The vision of the Founding Fathers, of the framers, they didn’t intend for there to be a permanent political class in Washington. They wanted people from all walks of life to go in there, serve for a short time, and then basically just come home and live under the laws that they made. They wanted people who would change government before it changes them. Do you get the sense that you’re doing that in Knox County?
Glenn Jacobs: That’s what I’m trying to do. We’re very fortunate in Knox County. We have term limits for the mayor. I can serve two terms. And that… Well, actually we have term limits for all our elected officials here. I can serve two terms, and that’s it. We also… Our community is conservative, somewhat libertarian community, so we’re already skeptical of big government here in East Tennessee, and as someone who takes a libertarian view of things as well, I think part of the problem is just overall, there’s too many people out there that believe government’s the solution to all of our problems. And it’s civil society that has the solutions, and generally government gets in the way, but when people think government’s the answer, they’re gonna give government more power, and people like me, we wanna take power away from government.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah.
Glenn Jacobs: And that’s wrapped up in this whole debate.
Nick Tomboulides: Well, what I love about the position that you ran for and got elected to is that you can have sort of an immediate impact as the chief executive of the county, not just because of term limits, but just the nature of the position. But when you’re thinking about people who run for Congress, maybe who are civically-minded, who wanna fight the swamp, the choice that they’re faced with is, “Do I really wanna leave behind my career for 30 years, go to Washington, get on a committee and then climb this ladder?” And by the time they actually get some influence up there, they basically become cogs in a machine because of the seniority system. So do you think term limits would help dismantle that seniority system in DC?
Glenn Jacobs: I do, because as you said, the real power in Congress lies in your committee assignments, and there’s more issues there too, because your committee assignments depend on how much money you raise for your political party, so that’s an issue as well. But nevertheless, yes, what happens is people that are there for a long period of time, and the reason they stay there is because they have the political acumen to stay there. Running for office does not necessarily require the same skill set as good governing does.
Glenn Jacobs: Those are sometimes two different things. And the people that keep on winning over and over, win because they have good political skills, not because they have good governing skills. So the longer that they remain there, you can see that just overall, government starts to degrade because just it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. So yes, I do believe that if you can get more turnover by having the people that have all the power get termed out, limited out, that would open up the ability for other people to get in and bring in fresh ideas.
Nick Tomboulides: Let me ask you this. You mentioned Knox County adopted term limits, which you are subject to. Have you seen the benefits of that in terms of opening up new seats, and at least like getting some new blood in there, allowing for new people to run for office?
Glenn Jacobs: Oh, absolutely. I think it’s been very good for our community because it also provides… Like someone like me, I have a sense of urgency. Anything I wanna get done, I have a set period of time that I have to do it. So it actually impels me to work harder on some of the things that I want to get done, but yes, because of our term limits, we’ve seen a lot of the turnover on county commission, we’ve seen younger people getting on the county commission, which I think is a good thing as well. So yes, I think overall, it’s been extremely beneficial for Knox County.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s awesome. Can we do a quick little lightning round, a little bit of a word association?
Glenn Jacobs: Sure. [chuckle]
Nick Tomboulides: If you don’t mind. Alright. Nancy Pelosi.
Glenn Jacobs: Oh gosh. [chuckle]
Nick Tomboulides: What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Glenn Jacobs: I have a lot of words. None of them good. [chuckle]
Nick Tomboulides: Can you say any of those words on a podcast, on a family-friendly podcast?
Glenn Jacobs: I think that Nancy Pelosi is the epitome of why we need term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: Washington lobbyists.
Glenn Jacobs: Washington lobbyists, they are the bottom feeders in the swamp.
Nick Tomboulides: The undertaker. [laughter]
Glenn Jacobs: The undertaker is way too cool to be mentioned in the same lightning round as Nancy Pelosi, trust me, so…
Nick Tomboulides: Thank you for doing this. What’s next for you? I know Knox County has another mayor election in 2022. Will you be running for re-election?
Glenn Jacobs: I am running for re-election. It’s been just the honor of my lifetime to serve as Knox County Mayor. I think that here in Knox County, our future’s extremely bright and our best years really are ahead of us, and I just want to be a part of all of that.
Nick Tomboulides: Mayor Jacobs, thank you for your time. We really appreciate it.
Glenn Jacobs: Thanks, Nick.
Philip Blumel: What else was going on this week, Nick? What about down in the states. I saw that there was a… Not a vote, but a hearing’s held in Maine on their term limits convention resolution bill. And I don’t know where that’s gonna go in Maine right now, but there was a superstar politician in Maine who just came out for terms limits this last week in a very big way.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, that would be Congressman Jared Golden, who is a Democrat representing Maine’s second congressional district. He announced basically out of nowhere that he supports term limits for Congress, and he got on the US term limits amendment, HJR12. It is now a bipartisan bill with his support. There are two other Democrats who’ve also signed the USTL pledge, Ann Kirkpatrick from Arizona, and Lori Trahan from Massachusetts. It’s a testament to the power of the issue. Golden is in not only one of the largest congressional districts in the country, geographically, but also one of the most competitive districts, and so I’m sure that he and his team have been taking the temperature of the voters as of late, and they have sensed that there is an appetite for term limits, and that’s a big part of the reason why they got on board.
Philip Blumel: Do you think that that move might have some effect on the main state legislators that are considering the term limits convention bill? Do you think it can trickle down that way?
Nick Tomboulides: I hope so. The main legislature has a weird rule where a convention bill has to pass with a two-thirds majority. That makes it extra hard. So we have two priorities in Maine. Get that rule repealed, and then, number two, get a vote and pass. It’s been the Democratic Party that’s historically in Maine has blocked the term limits convention. Maybe Jared Golden’s embracing of this could open that door and get us some more Democratic support in the State House. It remains to be seen. But again, it’s a very positive development.
Philip Blumel: Well, we’ll see. Thank you, Jared, for that bold move last week.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The term limits convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the term limits convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state. Click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators, urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction.
Philip Blumel: If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution, or the bill’s not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US term limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress, and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate, termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.