Nick Tomboullides: What will it finally take to get term limits for Congress? What has to happen to make it happen? I’m Nick Tomboullides, and this is No Uncertain Terms, the official Podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of August 30th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Nick Tomboullides: This week, we are re-imagining the future from a term limits perspective and talking about three pivotal events that could change history by making term limits for Congress inevitable.
Nick Tomboullides: Philip Blumel, is out this week attending to some business, but don’t worry, he will be returning soon. I wanted to take this time to answer one of the most common questions we get. And that is, what has to happen? What really has to happen to make term limits for Congress a reality? And we’re not talking about any snake oil solutions or sound bites that you hear that are common in politics everywhere nowadays. What we’re talking about are three realistic things that might happen in the very near future that would completely change the landscape, it would send shock waves through the political elite, and it would make term limits for Congress inevitable. Whether it’s all three of these things happening, two of them, or even just one of them, all of these are possibly instrumental events to make term limits for Congress inevitable.
Nick Tomboullides: Number one, more state legislatures have to pass the Term Limits Convention. We see them taking action already. You’ve got Florida, Missouri, Alabama, West Virginia have all passed it. We’ve got a single chamber in Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia. They have passed resolutions calling for a term limits convention. And every time a state does this, their Secretary of State sends a copy to Congress. So the swamp is aware of us. Congress is aware of this. And they are aware that unlike everything else they deal with, they are utterly powerless when it comes to stopping a term limits convention. The Constitution is crystal clear. The writings of the American Framers are crystal clear. The article five convention is a bypass. It’s the alternative route that goes around and not through Washington DC. So each successive state that makes the call for a term limits convention, every time that happens, the facade around Congress starts to crack, because they’re powerless to stop this. So that’s number one. State legislatures need to keep calling for a term limits convention. That is obviously the center piece of everything that we do at US Term Limits.
Nick Tomboullides: Number two, more candidates for Congress need to sign the US term limits pledge and co-sponsor the amendments. Do not misunderstand this one, no one here is holding their breath waiting on Congress to term limit themselves. That’s not why this one is important. The tribal chiefs in Washington, nasty Nancy, crooked Chuck, moldy Mitch, creepy Kevin, they’re not gonna move on term limits, at least not on their own. And you know, congressional elections here are functioning more and more like Chinese or North Korean elections. Where no matter who actually wins, it’s gonna be the leadership that decides everything. But this one is still important, because it raises the profile of term limits.
Nick Tomboullides: For example, when Senator Ted Cruz goes on TV, Fox News or wherever, he always gives term limits a shout out. He talks about his amendment. But more importantly, having a base in Congress is gonna be vital, because once even more states are calling for the term limits convention, Congress will be feeling the heat. And they may have no choice but to propose a term limits amendment of their own. And the question at that point will be, will they propose a real term limit, such as three terms in the House, two terms in the Senate. That’s the limit on our pledge. Or are they gonna propose garbage, fake term limits, like a 12-year House limit or a 16-year House limit, which you might as well call the career politician empowerment act or the lobbyist empowerment act. Because a term limit in the house of 12 years or longer is hardly a term limit at all.
Nick Tomboullides: So if they are left to their own devices, it’s gonna be something really stupid and really ridiculous. But if we hold them in check, if we grow our number of pledge signers, we can prevent that from happening, and we can insist on real, authentic, genuine term limits when the time comes. So that’s number two. More candidates for Congress need to sign the pledge.
Speaker 3: This is a public service announcement.
Speaker 4: It didn’t escape notice at CBS Channel 2 in New York that the recent resignation of Governor Cuomo has given new voice to the voters demand for Term Limits.
Speaker 5: New York is one of only 12 states that doesn’t have a term limit for Governors.
Speaker 6: And it is a long-standing conversation reignited given the controversy surrounding Governor Cuomo. CBS 2’s Jessica Layton live in Albany for us, with more on what the governor’s colleagues are saying about that. Jessica?
Speaker 7: Well, Kristine and Maurice, think about the last five years. So much of the state’s leadership has gone down in huge disgrace. And now with the governor’s most recent scandal, legislators from Long Island to Rockland County to right here in the capital region are joining the term limit debate. With Governor Cuomo holed up inside the eerily quiet executive mansion, the magnitude of the turmoil he’s created has colleagues loudly reigniting their call for term limits.
Speaker 8: You need turnover. You need new ideas, fresh faces. You don’t need dynasties.
Speaker 7: Rockland County’s Mike Lawler, is among several assembly Republicans who want to cap elected leaders’ time in office to eight years, like the President in the White House. Supporters of similar bills argue the insatiable thirst for power inevitably yields a path for corruption. Long Island’s Ed Ross says, it’s about accountability.
Speaker 9: Legislative leaders as well who have gotten themselves into trouble. And I think the common denominator in all of this is people amassing major amounts of power.
Speaker 7: Remember the so-called Three Men in a Room, they’ve all been forced to step down in scandal. Upstate assembly Democrat John McDonald rattled off the list.
Speaker 10: In the last five years, the assembly leader, gone. Senate Majority Leader, gone. New York State Attorney General, gone. Governor, gone.
Speaker 11: I do think term limits could have the effect that voters intend them to, but so does imposing certain limitations on campaign fundraising and spending.
Speaker 7: Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, who goes back and forth on whether he favors term limits, says one argument against is it could prevent elected officials who don’t have time to achieve leadership positions from bringing resources back to their districts. And the question remains.
Speaker 7: Would a term limit have made a difference in this scandal with Governor Cuomo?
Speaker 11: If people knew that he only had a short time in office, they may have felt more comfortable coming out and challenged him, or raised concerns about the toxicity and the culture in the office.
Speaker 12: A lot of these scandals might not have occurred because people wouldn’t have been as afraid of Andrew Cuomo.
Nick Tomboullides: Number one, state legislatures need to keep calling for a term limits convention. Number two, more candidates for Congress need to sign the pledge. Number three, this is more of a wild card, and we definitely don’t need this to happen to be successful. This is not necessary, but it would still be a game changer, and it’s more realistic than you might think. And that would be the Supreme Court, US Supreme Court reversing its ruling from the 1995 case, US Term Limits v Thornton. When Justice Barrett was put on the court, I believe it was Harvard Law School that named this case the most vulnerable Supreme Court precedent in America. That means it is the precedent that is most likely to be overturned by a court. Now that the composition has changed, Donald Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court, the math is very different. The court’s thinking, its ideology is very different than what it was when the Thornton case was decided in 1995.
Nick Tomboullides: So, if for any reason, US Term Limits versus Thornton does get overturned, all of those dead laws that 23 states passed in the 1990s to term limit their congressman. Nearly all of those laws would rise from the grave like Lazarus overnight, and it would put Congress in an impossible bind. Because you’d have a situation where some of Congress would have term limits, some of it wouldn’t, but a ruling there would make it very, very difficult for them to avoid proposing an amendment that applies to all the members. So overturning that case is as close to inevitable as I think you can get with this. So those are the three biggest impact events, impact things, that would make term limits for Congress inevitable. That’s number one. State legislatures need to keep calling for a term limits convention.
Nick Tomboullides: Number two, more candidates for Congress need to sign the pledge. And number three is the wild card, the Supreme Court revisiting the Thornton decision and possibly overturning it. And the effect that all three of these movements, of these possibilities have is that they are the three walls caving in on the swamp right now. If we have all three of those, there’s no doubt in my mind that term limits will become a reality in very short order. Heck, even if we get just two of those things, we’re in a very strong position to win this fight. And of course, the most important of those three elements is getting state legislatures to continue calling for the term limits convention.
Nick Tomboullides: I am going to square with you, nobody can tell federal judges in courts what to do, but the thing that we can all influence directly is getting state legislators and congressional candidates to sign the US Term Limits Pledge. If they’re Democrats, they’re gonna talk a lot about fairness. Tell them to make our elections fair by supporting term limits. If they’re Republicans, they’ll say they want liberty. Tell them to liberate our country from special interests by passing term limits. This issue is like an all you can eat buffet. No matter who you are, no matter what you like, there is something in it for you. There is something in term limits for you. And we can make this a reality. It is within our reach, because we can pressure these legislators to sign the pledge, and we can get the leverage we need to make term limits inevitable, because we all benefit from a better system.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. We have not yet entered election season, but we’re right at the front end of it and candidates are already getting registered to run for office. It’s not the same process in each state. In some states, the candidates have to register at the state level with the Secretary of State and in others, they register with the county clerk or the local elections official. In some states, it’s a combination of those things.
Scott Tillman: In many states, they can pay a fee to be on the ballot, but in other places, they actually have to gather nominating petitions. This is true of both congressional and state legislative candidates. And it makes it hard to get a thorough list of all the candidates until after the state filing deadline. And those state filing deadlines will be taking place all next year from January till August. We have already identified over a thousand new candidates who are running for congress and several thousand running for state legislature. Now we ask congressional candidates to sign the US Term Limits Pledge. This pledge is to co-sponsor and vote for the US term limits amendment of three House terms and two Senate terms and no longer limit. And over 140 congressional candidates have signed the pledge in 2021.
Scott Tillman: And now there are two ways to amend the constitution so the states can initiate a term limits amendment convention. And that requires state legislatures to pass resolutions. Now, there are 99 state legislative bodies in the 50 states, and there are over 7300 state legislative seats in those legislatures. Over 6000 of those seats are up for election in November 2022, and the candidates are getting into those races now. We ask the candidates for these seats to sign this pledge, “I pledge that as a member of the state legislature, I will co-sponsor, vote for, and defend the resolution applying for an Article V convention for the sole purpose of enacting term limits on Congress.”
Scott Tillman: Over 114 candidates for state legislature have signed this pledge in 2021. Now, our pledge season is just getting started and we need your help collecting pledges from candidates and incumbents. You can follow us on Facebook to see all the recent signers in your state and to help keep up with the term limits news in your area. And you can contact me, Scott Tillman, at stillman, that’s S-T-I-L-L-M-A-N@termlimits.com for instructions on how to contact candidates in your area and ask them to sign these term limits pledges. Help the movement by taking action to help us term limit Congress.
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.
Philip Blumel: 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. 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.
Speaker 15: USTL.