Nick Tomboulides: This week court is in session as a new package for Supreme Court term limits arrives in the US House, courtesy of Democrats. Unfortunately, those Democrats don’t seem to want to work with Republicans. Meanwhile, term limits are selling like hot steaks in North Dakota, where a committee organizing for it is posting eye-popping signature numbers. And finally, we discuss how Denny Hastert went from being the third most powerful man in America just a few years ago, to a disgraced criminal, begging to stay out of prison. This is No Uncertain Terms.
Nick Tomboulides: So there’s a big problem in Congress right now with term limits, and it has to do with partisan division, where you’ve got this group of Democrats that is very, very passionate about term limits for judges, in particular, term limits for the Supreme Court, and that contingent is led by Representative Ro Khanna of California. And then on the other side of the aisle, you’ve got a group of Republicans, which is led by Ralph Norman and Ted Cruz that is very, very passionate about term limits for legislators, for term limits on members of Congress. But for whatever reason, these two groups never meet in the middle and work together. And that is a travesty, it is a shame. It is a major reason why there is such a stagnancy in Congress right now and why nothing ever gets done. Because all of these ideas are good. You pull people on the street and you say, “Should we have Supreme Court Justices who are serving into their 90s, who are making the highest laws of the land from the bench and might not even remember what they had for breakfast yesterday?” People would say, “Hell, no.”
Nick Tomboulides: On the same token, you ask people about term limits for Congress, and they are white hot about that as well. A terms limits for Congress would drain the swamp, it would reduce corruption, it will give you fresh faces and ideas, members who can change the system before it changes them. Term limits for Congress would fix this broken system and get people to care more about doing their jobs rather than keeping their jobs. So, the voting public is all in favor of both of these ideas. But in Congress, there is a great schism between the Democrats and the Republicans, and it shouldn’t exist, it is one of the most counter-productive things in the world. And the latest chapter in this schism was written this past Tuesday when a group of Democrats in the House introduced a new bill for 18-year term limits on the Supreme Court.
Nick Tomboulides: The introducers are Ro Khanna, the aforementioned, Don Beyer from Virginia, Barbara Lee and Rashida Tlaib as a member of the squad. So these are progressive members of Congress who are calling for term limits on the Supreme Court. And the way this bill would work is it would not affect any of the current Justices. So, if you love Clarence Thomas or you love Sotomayor, they’re not going anywhere under this legislation. This would look to the future, it would cap Supreme Court Service at 18 years for any particular Justice, and then they would have to rotate down to a different part of the Federal bench, like a district court of appeals. And because the limit is 18 years, this would mean every president gets to nominate a new Justice every two years, that would add an element of predictability to the system, but the debate over this now is, whether in fact it is constitutional? And there’s a lot of debate among constitutional experts, constitutional scholars as to whether term limits for the Supreme Court can even be done without a constitutional amendment.
Nick Tomboulides: Because Article III Section 1 of the Constitution says, “Judges serve during good behavior,” and many have interpreted that part of the Constitution to mean, they have life tenure. On the other hand, Congress has power of its own under Article I Section 8, Necessary and Proper Clause. Congress can make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the Powers of the Constitution. And that is where these congressmen, I believe, are finding their authority to pass a statute for Supreme Court term limits. Now, the benefit of going for a statute, this HR 5140 that’s been introduced is you don’t need a two-thirds majority, whereas the Supreme Court has said definitively, you need a two-thirds majority for congressional term limits. This group of Congress members is stating, no, you don’t need two-thirds for Supreme Court term limits, you can get it done with a simple majority, and that is a lot easier to do because you don’t have to twist as many arms.
Nick Tomboulides: But the legal debate has broken out. Thomas Berry of the Cato Institute says, “It’s no doubt unconstitutional.” You’ve got a guy here, Aaron Fritschner, who’s a spokesman for Don Beyer, Congressman, and he says they’re confident the bill is constitutional in an academic legal sense, but think that the Supreme Court with the 6-3 conservative majority might strike it down anyway. So that is an X factor. But realistically speaking, whether it is term limits for the Supreme Court, whether it is term limits for members of congress, without the buy-in from leadership, it’s just not gonna happen. It won’t happen because Congress is not a democracy, Congress is a dictatorship. And the dictators of Congress are the leaders in each chamber who decide what the agenda is.
Nick Tomboulides: So if Nancy Pelosi is not onboard with term limits, it ain’t gonna pass. If Chuck Schumer is not onboard with term limits, it ain’t gonna pass. It’s great to have a bill in place, but you need a contingency plan, you need a plan B. And that plan B has to be, the Article V convention. It has to be the States, because Congress will not act without pressure from the States. They have no reason to. It cuts against their own self-interest.
Nick Tomboulides: Now granted, I think Supreme Court term limits are more likely than Congressional term limits to come out of Washington, because it’s not gonna be their own oxes getting gored, it’s gonna be members of the court, members of the federal bench. But since there’s no partisan consensus or bipartisan consensus, it probably doesn’t have the votes to pass. Because not a single one of these Democrats has ever decided, ever thought about reaching out to a Republican to try to make this a bipartisan bill. The US term limits amendment HJR 12 is at least a bipartisan bill, it’s got mainly Republicans, but it’s also got some Democrats. It’s got Jared Golden for Maine, a Democrat. It’s got Lori Trahan for Massachusetts, a Democrat. There are Democrats who have co-sponsored the US term limits amendment in Congress. There are no Republicans as of yet, who have said, I want to sponsor Supreme Court term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: Now, I’ll briefly tell you why I support Supreme Court term limits before we move on to the next piece of the news capsule. And there’s a quote here from Stephen Breyer, he’s the oldest liberal justice on the court, he’s 83. He’s commenting about when he wants to retire, and he told the New York Times, “I don’t think I’m gonna stay there till I die, hope not.” Oh, we all hope not. And that ideological considerations will inevitably be in the psychology of his decision. So, here you have a sitting Supreme Court Justice who is admitting that he may choose to retire purely based on ideological considerations. So, he’s gonna look at the stars and hope that they align, we’ve got a Democratic House, we’ve got a Democratic Senate, I’m probably gonna retire, so the Senate and the President put someone in place who thinks and acts exactly like me. Is that really the way the Supreme Court should work?
Nick Tomboulides: Should it really be all about gamesmanship and trying to use Political Psychology to decide how to enforce the laws of our land, how to enforce the Constitution? There’s something very wrong with that, and I think that is the problem in the cross-hairs of Supreme Court term limits.
Speaker 2: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: A resolution calling for an amendment righting convention limited to the subject of congressional term limits successfully passed the Tennessee House in Spring 2021. If the Tennessee Senate follow suit before the end of the 2022 legislative session, Tennessee, you’ll be the fifth state to officially call for the term limits convention. In April, Representative Mike Sparks of Smyrna, Tennessee, was moved to stand up on the floor of the Tennessee legislature and thank the sponsors of the term limits convention resolution.
Mike Sparks: Sponsor, I just wanna thank you for your courage and conviction on this. A lot of times we’re deliberating up here, I think of my late World War II father who flew 24 bombing raids on the B17, and I think about the debt of this nation, where this country is going, our founding fathers didn’t did intend for folks to go to Congress, and the Senate, might be worth $100,000, come out worth millions of dollars, serving 30 and 40 and 50 years. I encourage you to vote for this and thank you, thank you, sponsor for bringing this. Maybe this is a small tool in the tool box to get this country back to basics. We’re 28 trillion in debt, 1.8 trillion in student debt, what’s being done about it? I don’t see anything. We’re leaving the next generation in debt, bankrupt, so thank you, sir.
Nick Tomboulides: An update out of North Dakota, as you know, there is a ballot initiative under way out in North Dakota to term limit the state legislature that would make North Dakota the 16th legislature in the country with term limits. And the committee which is organizing to that end has just announced that they have gathered nearly 6000 signatures from North Dakotans throughout the state in support of that amendment to the State Constitution. The petition is going to need 31,164 signatures to be collected before July of next year in order to qualify for the fall ballot, but they are well on track and they are well on their way. There’s a quote here from Jared Hendrix, who’s the Chairman of North Dakota for Term Limits. He says, “North Dakotans are tired of politics as usual, and are responding with overwhelming support in getting term limits on the 2022 ballot.” In just over a month, we have collected over a sixth of the required signatures to get term limits on the ballot. So, they are moving at a lightning fast pace in helping deliver term limits for the people of North Dakota.
Nick Tomboulides: It looks like they’re six months ahead of schedule based on this. You’ve got a few legislators who are on the committee, you’ve got a few legislators who are prehistoric careerists, dinosaurs, who were around when the asteroid hit, including, say, Senator Ray Holmberg in District 17. He has served in the Senate since 1977. You might wanna call him the poster child for North Dakota term limits. He says, “Why should I tell the people in my district that they can’t elect Cindy Schreiber-Beck or Alisa Mitskog ’cause they’ve served X number of years. That’s voters decision, it’s not my decision. That’s why I vote no.” Well, Senator Holmberg is right, it is the voters decision, and poll show 83% of voters in North Dakota support term limits for the State Legislature. So, let’s see what the voters decide next year.
Scott Tillman: Hello, this is Scott Tillman, the national field director with US Term Limits. We’re over a year out, but candidates have already begun signing up to run for office. Next November, we’re going to be electing people to fill 435 US House seats, and over 30 US Senate seats. There’s gonna be several thousand people running, and we already had 12 new Congressional candidates sign the term limits pledge this week. This is the term limits pledge for a US constitutional amendment. We’re also working state by state to pass resolutions for a term limits amendment convention. There are over 7000 State legislative seats in the 50 states, and over 6000 of those will be up for election in November 2022.
Scott Tillman: This week, three new State House candidates signed 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. There will be over 10,000 candidates in these races, and we need your help to get them to sign the pledge. Follow us on Facebook to see new signers and to get other term limits news. And contact me, Scott Tillman, at email@example.com to help with pledges in your state. Act today to help us term limit Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: Some more news out of the AP, former US House Speaker, Denny Hastert has settled his sexual molestation lawsuit. This is something that is kind of hard to talk about, but it’s important. He was the longest-serving Republican Speaker in US history. He was the successor to Newt Gingrich. He was one heartbeat away from the presidency, he was one of the most powerful politicians in the world. You probably saw him sitting behind President’s State of the Union for many years, he is a big stocky white guy with glasses.
Nick Tomboulides: But Denny Hastert had a big secret, and that is, he was a child predator. And this was not known to anyone but his victims. Unfortunately, the victims had been so paralyzed by fear, so traumatized that they didn’t come forward for a long time. It was not until Hastert started making these unusual cash deposits and withdrawals from his bank, that the FBI began looking into this and they realized very quickly, “Oh my God, this guy, he’s a monster. He’s a monster.” He had agreed to pay nearly $4 million in hush money payments to these victims and it would not have been discovered if not for some tricky shell games that he was playing at his local bank. Truly, truly an incredible story.
Nick Tomboulides: When Denny Hastert was in Congress, he was pretty corrupt. He used the public money after he left to become a lobbyist, he repealed the term limits on the speakership while he was there, so he could stay longer. He was really one of the bigger parasites that was feeding from the public trough, and he was just a couple of heartbeats from the presidency, and was a demented and sick human being. Even worse, he spent just a year in prison, just barely over a year in prison, and it wasn’t even for the molestation, it was for the banking violations.
Nick Tomboulides: And now, this story comes out, he has just settled a civil lawsuit with one of his victims so they’re not going to be going to trial. But how many times have we seen this where some politician is really looked up to, is a leader in their party, is a leader in the country, and we’re all lectured and told, “Government can’t operate without this man, he’s so indispensable, he has so much knowledge, he’s such a good person.” And then we later learn that they were corrupt, they were abusing their power, and in some cases, they turn out to be monsters. So, what to think about Denny Hastert? Obviously, we keep all of his victims in our prayers, but in the future, let’s have some more skepticism about our politicians. Let’s not assume that just because someone talks nice and talks a good game and goes on TV and seems to agree with us on something, let’s not assume that they aren’t secretly abusing their power, and sometimes much, much worse. Let’s have a healthy skepticism of American politicians.
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. 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 No Uncertain Terms podcast.
Speaker 7: USTL.