Philip Blumel: Happy New Year from US Term Limits. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of January 2nd, 2023.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: As we look forward to a new year of progress, it’s worth taking a look back at the big stories of 2022. Term limits continued their march across the electoral map and important steps were made towards the ultimate goal, term limits on the US Congress. Let’s take a look backward.
Philip Blumel: The first big news of 2022 isn’t good news, but it does underscore the importance of our project, imposing term limits on the US Congress. In the midterm elections in November, 95% of the Congress was reelected, including 100% of incumbents running for their own seat in the US Senate. We haven’t seen that in 60 years. How is it that in such a time of public dissatisfaction and polarization that every single incumbent running for their own seat in the US Senate won? That just shows the importance of the open seat elections created by term limits in every seat and in every state at the end of every term limit.
Philip Blumel: On the positive side of the ledger, there were 24 term limits measures on ballots across the country and term limits won 83% of the time. These were measures in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. And in 83%, term limits won. That means that in the cases where new term limits are being posed, the voters said yes. And in cases where politicians were trying to weaken or abolish the term limits that the voters had already approved, the voters said no. Good news.
Philip Blumel: Also, and this also stemming from the midterms, in July, we reported on our podcast that we had 100 pledge signers elected to the US Congress. These are Congress members that had taken the US Term Limit’s pledge and put pen to the paper, and we have their signatures and we have these pledges at our home office. And in each case, the members of Congress said that if they were elected or reelected, that they would co-sponsor and vote for the US Term Limits constitutional amendment. And we had 100 signers in July, but after the elections, we now have 129. We have never had this many pledge signers in the US Congress before, not even close. In fact, the 100 that we were bragging about in July was a record. Well, we’ve just surpassed it by quite a bit. Why is this important? Well, politicians, once they’re elected will pretty much never support the idea of term limits. So the best way to get them on board is to talk to them while they’re still candidates. When they can go out on the stump and say they signed the US Term Limits pledge and they receive applause, standing ovations every time they mention it in public. And once they’re elected and we have the signed pledge, they’re on board.
Philip Blumel: And you know, truth is that generally speaking, if a candidate signs the pledge, the elected congressman will follow suit and co-sponsor the amendment. We haven’t had a floor vote on it yet. Maybe this year is the year. So we haven’t tested the second half of the pledge. But so far, so good. We have an enormous number of co-sponsors on these bills in the Congress, which will move us closer to getting to a floor vote.
Philip Blumel: Now, we don’t totally expect, in fact, we don’t expect the US Congress to vote for term limits. Remember that it would require two-thirds of a vote of both the House and the Senate in order to pass a amendment and send it down to the states for ratification. States ratifying it, we don’t have too much concern about. But the idea of getting over the hump of two-thirds of Congress members that would be required to vote for term limits on themselves, well, that’s a bit much. But having co-sponsors on these bills gets us closer to a floor vote and a floor vote gets us closer to the national discussion we need. And it also makes it very clear who’s on board and who isn’t, which will be a big deal in pushing this idea going forward. So it’s very important the number of pledge signers and co-sponsors we have in the US Congress. And besides, with our state effort going on and progressing every year, including this one, we’ll get to that, Congress might be pushed by the states into action. And if the Congress is being pushed by the states, it’s certainly gonna be helpful to have a large number of them locked in in support of this measure. So progress is being made in the US Congress.
Philip Blumel: It’s worth mentioning some of the progress from around the various states. In November, Baltimore, for instance, imposed term limits on their city council, eight-year term limits, the most common one in the United States. And funny, Council Member Ryan Dorsey has already introduced a bill to repeal it a month or two after the voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for the Baltimore City Council. Crazy.
Philip Blumel: On the downside, the State of Michigan, this was probably the big lost… Biggest loss of the year, in fact, it certainly is. Michigan, one of the first states to pass term limits on their legislature, and with one of the best and toughest term limits in the country, voted to weaken their term limits. Now, it wasn’t done in a straight-up fashion. If you are a listener to this podcast, you know that the voters will vote down clearly stated measures to weaken or abolish term limits. But the Michigan measure was a long measure, which term limits were sort of, kind of, mentioned, buried in into. It was an anti-corruption package created primarily to hide the anti-term limits aspect of it. And even then, the language in the package suggested that this would establish 12-year term limits. Well, that’s great, except they already had six-year term limits in the House and eight-year term limits in the Senate. So, the Michigan scam passed, and that was probably the biggest, most disappointing setback of the year for the Term Limits Movement.
Philip Blumel: House Democrats are finally taking a step backwards from gerontocracy after the midterm elections. Nancy Pelosi of California, age 82, is stepping down as House Speaker after leading House Democrats for 20 years. Also, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, age 83, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, age 82. They’re expected to be succeeded by Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, age 59, and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar of California, age 43, respectively. This has been long in coming. As Steny Hoyer says in this clip from NBC News, new blood and new ideas are good for the party. Of course, term limits would provide such benefits on a regular schedule.
Speaker 3: This is what Steny Hoyer had to say about that decision by the three of them to let the next crop of leaders take the baton.
Steny Hoyer: Because I think it’s time for new leadership, and I think we have excellent opportunities. Very frankly, I think I could be elected. That was not the issue. But I think it’s time. You know, I think it’s always good for a party to have new blood and new invigoration, enthusiasm and new ideas.
Philip Blumel: Politicians across the country tried to pull the same trick, but not with the success that Michigan had because, generally speaking, the politicians put roughly straightforward measures on the ballot. For instance, in Memphis, the Memphis City Council put on a referendum on the ballot for voters to consider to weaken their term limits from eight to 12 years. And Memphis had originally passed the term limits law back in 2008. And in 2018, the politicians put a measure back on in the ballot to try to weaken the term limits from eight to 12 years. And the Memphis voters said no with 60% of the vote. And then this year, on the August 4 ballot, the Memphis Council had put another measure on the ballot to weaken the term limits from eight to 12 years in the City Council and the voters once again said no, this time hell no, with a larger percentage of 66% in opposition. Crazy. But at least the measure was clear that that’s what the measure did and therefore the voters got to have a proper say in the matter. But I tell you what, being straightforward is definitely a virtue, but it doesn’t forgive all the excesses of these politicians or their arrogance. Consider this in nearby Nashville. Nashville originally put term limits on the ballot back in 1994. And the politicians there kept putting term limits weakening measures back on the ballot in 1998, 2002, 2008, 2015, and 2018. And every single time the voters said no, they’ll do it again.
Philip Blumel: One of the biggest successes of 2022 has to be North Dakota. Term limits had become an issue in North Dakota just recently as the North Dakota legislature started to consider, but then shot down the idea of calling for a term limits convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution and there’s several states, of course, that have done this. And under the US Constitution, under Article 5, if two-thirds of the states call for such a convention, then it must be called to discuss the issue. And with the North Dakota legislature refusing to do so, term limits rose up as an issue and it turned out that citizens put it on the ballot and overwhelmingly support it on election day in November. One would hope this legislature has learned a lesson that can be learned by other legislatures around the country. In any case, there’s going to be a new legislature in North Dakota and a new governor in North Dakota in eight years as a result of the people’s vote.
Philip Blumel: The big news of the year, though, has to be more states approving the term limits convention resolution. As I just mentioned, if sufficient number of states call for a term limits convention, then a term limits convention will be called and delegates will be sent and the idea of term limits on Congress will be debated, and presumably an amendment will be sent back to the states for full ratification. This is the aim and a major goal of US Term Limits.
Philip Blumel: And the big news in 2022 is that two states passed the term limits convention resolution, one for the first time, and this is Wisconsin, welcome aboard, and then Missouri, who had already passed it, but they passed it with a time limit. It was sort of a half passage, if you want to call it that way, a temporary one. And they repaired the bill to take away the time limit. So the way this works is that if a state calls for the term limits convention, that call stays on the books and other states can add to it in years in the future. You don’t have to pass it every year. So there are now five states calling for the term limits convention. Every year we get one or two more states on board. And don’t be surprised when this issue really hits that we get a dozen in one year or more. The goal, of course, is 34.
Philip Blumel: Next, well, I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news, but there was a lot of corruption exposed this year by members of Congress and various state legislatures that were diehard opponents of term limits. And of course, their frauds and their excesses and their arrogance sort of exposed why that they clung to power so strenuously and opposed term limits. For example, we talked about in the podcast all of these over the course of the year, Kentucky State Representative Robert Goforth convicted of fraud. In North Dakota, the longest serving state senator Ray Holmberg resigned after a sex scandal. Back to Congress, US Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska convicted of lying to federal authorities about illegal campaign contributions. Next, a bigger one, former Tennessee State House Speaker Glenn Casada arrested on 20 federal corruption charges. In Illinois in March, after 25 terms, 50 years, the longest serving House Speaker in US History, Michael Madigan, indicted on 22 counts of bribery and racketeering.
Stacey Selleck: Like the show? You can help by subscribing and leaving a five-star review on both Apple and Spotify. It’s free.
Philip Blumel: Overall, it was a big year for the Term Limits Movement. We look forward to 2023. Which state is next? Is it yours? It can be. Please help us out at US Term Limits with a donation to help fund the current year’s efforts. To do this, go to termlimits.com/donate. That’s termlimits.com/donate. Also, mark your calendar. Term Limits Day is coming up, February 27th. How are you going to publicly show your support for Term Limits on this special day? Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: Find us on most social media at US Term Limits. Like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and now, TikTok.
Speaker 5: USTL.