In this week’s 20-min podcast:
- With the pressure of a McCarthy-promised term limits vote on the way, is the swamp secretly drafting their own version of ‘term limits”..?
- Latest Breaking News on Term Limits with Holly Robichaud
- USTL’s Ken Quinn drags the truth out of politicians regarding term limits
- Remy song parody references term limits
- The call for age limits grows, but pales in comparison to term limits
Is there a bad moon on the rise?
Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement. This is Episode Number 217, posted on July 11th, 2023.
Naturally, we were thrilled when House speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to hold a vote on Congressional term limits during his campaign to become the House Speaker. You may recall that there was resistance to his speakership and after several rounds of voting and of course negotiations, McCarthy finally got the job. He made lots of promises to win over his caucus in the House, and one of them was to South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman, he’s the sponsor of HJR11, which is the US Term Limits bill. This is the bill that recently added its 100th co-sponsor in the House. This is the one that nearly 100 House members signed a US Term Limits pledge to support. McCarthy promised Representative Norman a vote. Yeah, that was big news for the term limits movement. The last vote on term limits in the House was way back in 1995. This meant that if we were going to have a vote that every member of the House was going to have to go on a record regarding reform supported by more than 80%-plus of Americans.
That would be very helpful in itself. But this is Washington DC, right? We know we need to be ready for anything. Well, just like, John Fogerty who wrote the song, Bad Moon Rising, we see trouble on the way. Now this is not confirmed. We’ve learned it pays to be paranoid, but we have heard it from more than one source. Pressure from anti term limits members in the House may transform the promised vote from a clean one on Representative Norman’s popular bill to a new bill with different terms. Yes. Rather than the Norman Amendment calling for three terms in the House and two in the Senate we call that three/two term limits, there will be a bait and switch. Instead, a new bill will magically appear calling for six terms in the House and two in the Senate. A six/two amendment. That’s right. Double the amount of time in the House.
So House members wanna vote on 12 years instead of six for House members. Yeah. That’s weak, right? Yes. That’s self-interested. That would be a broken promise from McCarthy. But you might think, “Well, heck, that’s not that big a deal, is it?” Right? I mean, the vote is just for show. We really don’t expect it to pass. Remember, to get an amendment passed, it has to be 2/3, not just a simple majority. So why not just let it slide? Nope. No can-do. This is very serious. We’d be better off if there’s no vote at all. I’ll explain. Keep in mind that the only reason Representative Norman’s bill ever got to Speaker McCarthy’s desk is because of a longstanding campaign to collect signed pledges from congressional candidates before they got to Washington that committed representatives to “co-sponsoring and voting for the Congressional Term Limits Amendment of three terms for representatives and two terms for senators “and no longer limit.” Get it?
Voting yes on a sham six/two term limits bill would require that about 100 members of the House, most of the great term limits supporters in the House would break their US Term Limits pledges. All the progress made in Congress on this issue is because of the pledge program and everyone knows it. McCarthy knows it. All the term limit supporters and all the term limits opponents know it. My fear is that there is a plot afoot to sink the US Term Limits amendment by using a vote on a fake amendment that would be created just for the sham vote in order to wreck the pledge program and all the progress made. I mean, you see the position that’s put term limits supporters in.
Do you live up to your pledge or do you vote against the term limits amendment, a sham term limits amendment? It also gives anti term limits members the ability to vote yes and claim to be term limits supporters to their constituents back home, which everyone’s going to clap while knowing it can never pass. Do you know what happens to scoff laws like California reps Young Kim, and New York representative Claudia Tenney who sign and then break the pledge? We run billboards in the districts, sometimes we send mailers, educating voters and run radio ads to let voters know that they broke the pledge. A term limits PAC recently ran TV ads against Representative Tenney. Why? Because she put up a sham bill that was 12 years. So the bad guys like Representative Tenney will claim that the term limits movement is being intransigent. They’re just hung up on this six versus 12 years or three/two term limits versus six/two term limits. They’re making the perfect, the enemy of the good. But that’s not true.
Let me tell you a story that dates back to the first wave of term limits activism in the 1990s. We’re really getting into the weeds here. You’re going to learn a little bit about Machiavellian politics on the issue of term limits. We learned an important lesson back then the hard way. We were naive and we got crushed. Sure, we said back then we want term limits on Congress and we’re not so particular about the specific term, right? We know that short term limits are better, but we don’t want to make the perfect, the enemy of the good. Right? We want to be realistic. Right? Well, that’s why we got played. It turned out there was not just one, but multiple votes of term limits bills back then when all the eyes were on the issue. All the bills were different. Most of them would’ve been good if term limits supporters were united behind one bill. But as it happened with multiple votes, all the politicians got to vote for term limits and bragged at their constituents about doing so without any fear that term limits would pass, is divide and conquer. It was a strategy of divide and conquer at that level of politics, they didn’t just luck out. We learned the hard way.
All these fakers had reasons for supporting one bill or the other that sounded good. “I love term limits,” they said, but I think they should be eight years, not six years or 12 years and not eight years or whatever. I think they should be consecutive. No, lifetime only, real term limits are lifetime, not consecutive. All these different things and they could make it sound good. They can convince their voters that they’re really working for them to get the best term limits bill, but that’s not what was occurring. What was occurring was they split the votes between multiple bills on purpose. So we came up with the pledge program, prevent this from happening to us again. We would ask congressional candidates to unite on one term limits measure. And so, the pledge program is specific. From then on, we would ask congressional candidates to unite on one term limits measure. In between the House and the Senate, some 130 politicians have done so. So, it’s working.
Now, if Congress just wants to have a nice show vote on term limits, they can have that vote with Representative Ralph Norman’s Bill as promised. If they want to wreck the term limits pledge program and punish pro term limits Congress members for keeping their word, they will have a vote on a new bill created especially for that purpose. Now, as I said, we have not confirmed that this chicanery is actually going on, but we have a real reason to fear it. And of course, remember we’re dealing with Congress. We must be careful and indeed paranoid about this. Power corrupts, they have it, they want to keep it and we are trying to limit it. That Congress is to a great extent corrupted cannot be denied. That’s why we need term limits after all, right? Okay, so stay tuned for nasty weather. If our fears are confirmed, we will need to take action quick. Be ready.
Next, let’s hear from Holly Robichaud from her latest episode of her YouTube show, Breaking News on Term Limits. Holly?
Support for Congressional Term Limits continues to grow. House joint resolution 11 now has 98 co-sponsors. Representative Frank Lewis of Oklahoma is the latest co-sponsor, and we expect more to join any day. Hello, I’m Holly Robichaud and this is Breaking News on Term Limits.
Now for our state update. Primary elections were held in New Jersey on June 6th for the state legislature and seven term limits pledge signers won their primaries. Virginia is another state where there’ll be elections for the state legislature. So far, 21 legislative candidates have signed our pledge. Mississippi also holds legislative elections this year and our state chair, Ron Eller, has 51 pledge signers so far. In May there were two special legislative elections in Florida. Ryan Chamberlain, a US Term Limits pledge signer was elected the Florida State House and in Kentucky, Greg Elkins, a strong term limit supporter, won his state senate seat. Congratulations.
Now for the political outrage of the week. In 2020, Claudia Tenney of New York was seeking to recapture the House seat that she had lost in 2018. She signed the US Term Limits pledge and was an outspoken supporter. In fact, her support for our term limits amendment played a major role in her narrow victory.
In 2022 after redistricting, she ran and won a tough primary once again advocating for congressional term limits. So, you’d think she was one of our strongest supporters on term limits amendment right? Wrong. This past February, Tenney filed House Joint Resolution 32, which would create a six-term limit on members of the House. Tenney’s proposal is double the limit. It would allow members of Congress to stay in power twice as long. Remember, Tenney signed our pledge that supports no longer than three terms, so she’s guilty, guilty, guilty of a bait and switch and she was hoping no one would notice. However, one group did notice, the Super PACs term limits actions spotted Tenney’s shell game and purchased TV ads calling her out on breaking her word to her voters. Tenney published an angry response. She stated, “My pledge to you, the voters is the same, now as it was the first day when I ran. I will fight for and support any term limits bill that is considered.”
Her statement is unequivocally false. Tenney promised that she would support no longer than three terms for House members. This distinction is huge. Term limits is a remedy for a broken Congress that is rotting from the disease of compliancy and corruption. But if the limits aren’t strong enough, like medicine that comes in too weak, the disease will never be cured. That’s why U.S. Term Limits pledge, which Tenney signed binds members to three House terms and no longer. It’s designed to stop career politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell from sending a limit so long that it turns out to be ineffectual. In 30 years, history of U.S. Term Limits, Claudia Tenney is the most egregious offender of the U.S. Term Limits pledge. We’re calling on Claudia Tenney to apologize to her constituents and keep her pledge.
As you know, every February 27th, we celebrate National Term Limits Day, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified, limiting a president to two terms in office. It was worded to exempt the incumbent Harry S. Truman, but Truman believed president should only serve two terms, so he declined to run again in 1952. He also favored term limits on Congress.
Thank you, Holly. Again, to hear the full program and to subscribe, go to youtube.com/ustermlimits. Next, let’s go back to the presidential campaign trail. We have been tracking the various presidential candidates’ positions on term limits and we’re now collecting and posting them online at termlimits.com/2024potus, P-O-T-U-S. We haven’t heard from all of them yet. Ken Quinn is back on the case though, chasing down candidates in New Hampshire, just as he did so successfully in 2020. It was Ken, the Northern Regional director of U.S. Term Limits who got Biden on the record against term limits. Generally, term limits opponents don’t like to admit it in public, but Ken dragged the truth out of him at a campaign event that year. On the Democratic so far, he’s asked candidate Maryanne Williamson about tournaments. She was… Vaguely positive.
“It would help, but it wouldn’t fix everything.” Yeah, okay. She’s right about that. Term limits would help, and they don’t fix everything. Okay. I mean, they don’t solve global warming or athlete’s foot for that matter. Of course, they do solve the problem of automatic reelection of incumbents. They do revive competitive elections and rotation in office. They give citizens an opportunity to participate meaningfully in elections as a voter and as a candidate in all districts, not just in the few with open seats because someone died or retired. Let’s be charitable and call her position evolving. Okay? We’ll check back with her later in the campaign. I also should go back to my comments last month about North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and his presidential campaign announcement. You recall that in that announcement, we were very surprised and, you know, very pleased to hear Burgum mentioned term limits.
Since then, Burgum has been sending out mailers touching on the issue as well. Bravo. Well, North Dakota activist and writer, Rob Port of the Forum News Service is less impressed than I was. In a June 27th column, he wrote, “Burgum’s campaign messaging claims he ‘helped pass North Dakota’s journalist measure,’ the facts, do not support that claim.” Port wrote in part, “Burgum has touted support for term limits since he took to the political stage, which is with his gubernatorial campaign in 2016. Though since becoming governor, if he’s taken an official action to pursue term limits as a policy, I’m not aware of it. I cannot find any exhortation from the governor to lawmakers to pass term limits amendment to the state constitution. When a ballot measure committee formed to put such an amendment before voters, Burgum was not on the sponsoring committee, nor did he contribute money to the measure campaign according to campaign disclosures made with the Secretary of State’s office, nor did Burgum go out of his way to use his bully pulpit to advocate for the measure.”
“When reporter Jeremy Turley asked Burgum about the journalist measure, he made a statement through a spokesman expressing support. Turley also reported that Burgum didn’t plan on spending any money to promote the measure. I can’t find any evidence of independent spending from Burgum or his political committees in favor of the term limits amendment, which is some weak tea for an issue Burgum has touted in his gubernatorial campaigns and is now trotting out again for his national campaign.” Governor Burgum, it’s your move.
Are you familiar with Remy? R-E-M-Y. Remy produces song parodies under the auspices of Reason TV and nearly always goes viral over social media. Call him a libertarian version of Weird Al Yankovic. Anyway, his latest caught our ear because, well, you know why? After satirizing the lack of availability of houses due to legacy, low interest rates and land use regulation, Remy in this video tries to take his case to his congressman. Good luck with that. The song is called Cold Dead Hands.
Congressman, Congressman, I just want a house but building here is illegal? Yeah. How is that allowed? We could use a voice like yours. Keep our house in your plans. I mean, you could take my seat. Really? Yeah. From my cold dead hands. Okay. Okay. Zero term limits and industry vies, I will be the incumbent until my brain finally dies then a couple years more. It is what it is. I almost lost one time, so we drew the district like this. My cold hands. Redo search. My cold dead hands. My cold hands…
Next. The problem of the gerontocracy in America and the humiliating and arguably exploitative spectacle of Senator Dianne Feinstein has led for some to call for age limits in Congress or even cognitive testing for politicians. These solutions recognize there’s a real problem, of course, but the solutions missed the point. In a refreshing July column by Christopher Rhodes, which came to us via Al Jazeera, the author zeroes in on the real issue and solution. Rhodes is a lecturer in government and social sciences at Harvard and Boston Universities. “We often experience a gradual decline with age, but the ages at which notable impairments set in are incredibly variable. Without a clear line to draw concerning when a person’s faculties decline enough to hinder their public service, any upper age limit placed on elected office would be arbitrary. The presidential two-term limit and a built-in successor, and the vice president already ensures against the dangers of elderly candidates and provides voters with the opportunity to manage their own perceived risks in choosing their preferred candidate.”
“But another elected office, the lack of term limits is paving the way for myriad problems. The average age of members of Congress for example, has reached record levels. But outside of a few examples like Feinstein, the main problem with an aging Congress is not the declining mental acuity of members, it is their interests and priorities. Older members of Congress tend to focus on the concerns of seniors while either neglecting or not understanding issues that are greater priorities for younger constituents, such as climate change or social media regulation. Still, it can be said that the aging Congress is just a reflection of the American population as a whole, skewing older over time and all the discussions about aging politicians mask a separate related problem that of entrenched politicians. While most of us realize that there is an incumbency advantage for politicians already in office, we probably don’t realize the magnitude. In the 2022 election Ballotpedia reports that congressional incumbents won 98% of their reelection bids. In 41 states, every congressional incumbent running for reelection won.”
Let me jump in. This is Phil again. I want to reread that sentence. Indulge me. “In the 2022 election Ballotpedia reports that congressional incumbents won 98% of their reelection bids. In 41 states, every congressional incumbent running for reelection won.” Okay, back to Chris Rhodes. “The incumbent advantage rests upon name recognition and massive fundraising advantages for those already holding office, which in turn raises serious concerns about the role of big donors and special interests exerting undue influence through entrenched incumbents. These concerns coupled with any legitimate concerns about the competency of older elected officials highlight the need for term limits as a tool to make representatives more reflective of and responsive to the needs and interests of constituents. The bottom line,” Rhodes says, “the US doesn’t need age limits, it needs term limits.” Hear, hear.
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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 are watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the Term Limits Convention Resolution, or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to U.S. Term Limits. It’s 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.
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