Philip Blumel: Well, we got our vote in Congress. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement. This is episode number 223, published on Monday, October 9th, 2023.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Well, we’ve been talking about it for months and it finally happened on September 28th. The US Term Limits Amendment bill got a vote of the House Judiciary Committee as promised by the former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? [chuckle] Well, I guess why would you, right? I mean, when the sun comes up in the east, no one comes charging to the newsroom shouting, “Stop the presses.” When politicians vote against term limits, it’s just another day at the office in Washington DC. Yeah, that’s right. By two votes, HJR 11, the US Term Limits Amendment was defeated and won’t be headed for a floor vote in the House. Why? Well, because you can’t ask turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving.
Philip Blumel: Interestingly, the whip count was in the citizen’s favor we thought, but conveniently, three of our pledge signers were nowhere to be found. Had they showed up and voted as they promised, our bill would’ve gone to the House floor. The spectacle of it all seems so astonishing to someone that, to an outsider who doesn’t do this every day, but of course, it’s just normal politics. They’re great experience and their valuable institutional memory were both on display. Several members used their time to rail against term limits, ignoring the will of the 87% of Americans who support ending career politicians in DC, according to a new Pew poll.
Philip Blumel: The most vehemently opposed was a bipartisan group including Representative Tom McClintock of California, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Representative Hank Capsize Johnson of Georgia, Representative Glenn Ivey of Maryland, and Representative Harriet Hageman of Wyoming. Democratic and Republican party politicians don’t agree on much, but they did come together to vote down term limits on their own offices.
Philip Blumel: Now, during the full Judiciary Committee hearing, 19 nay votes were cast against HJR 11. 19 politicians voted against limiting their own power. That’s 19 politicians representing the self-interest of this institution, Congress, that gets a thumbs up from 17% of Americans, forcefully argued against term limits, which won approval of 87% of Americans in that new Pew poll. Note this is a 70% gulf between the convictions of the people and their elected representatives. There’s something wrong here. Tennessee Representative Cohen referred to term limits as “hooey”.
Philip Blumel: Representative Harriet Hageman had perhaps the most egregious testimony. She agreed that Washington is dysfunctional and needs severe change and she wants term limits. Oh, but not for Congress. She wants them for congressional staffers. She seriously argued with a straight face that term limits are good for thee, but not for me, pointing her finger and referring to them as Washington’s bureaucracy. According to Hageman, they are the culprits for all that’s wrong in Washington. This is “hooey”. Well, I think it is anyway. I don’t really know what “hooey” is.
Philip Blumel: Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia wanted term limits too, oh, but also not for himself. He outlined all the reasons why the Supreme Court needed term limits. Representative Glenn Ivey claims that, well, if they wanted term limits so badly, these pledge signers should just retire. [chuckle] But that really isn’t the issue, is it? Term limits are an institutional reform. It has to apply to everyone to receive the benefit of the reform.
Philip Blumel: As always, we should let these representatives know how we feel. Please go to termlimits.com/takeaction. The very first item on the list will allow you to send an email to all 19 nay voters at once. Don’t let them think they got away with this without anyone noticing.
Philip Blumel: Alright, enough about the bad guys. All of the US Term Limits pledge signers on the committee who are present voted yes as they promised to do on a clean unamended HJR 11 bill. Probably the best and certainly the most fun testimony in favor of HJR 11 came from Representative Victoria Spartz, born and raised in the Ukraine, but today represents the state of Indiana in the US House. Let’s hear it.
Victoria Spartz: I actually thought about this issue for some time and I think our founding fathers did too, and they decided not to prescribe term limits because they thought, “You know what? American people have a chance and they have an impact.” Unfortunately, since founding fathers thought through all of these processes, a lot of negative things happened. They never thought about 16th and 17th Amendment where now a lot of senators don’t even remember where their states are located or maybe don’t have capacity to remember, or how much money is spent now in DC and how much money go in political pacts and how expensive this election became.
Victoria Spartz: So I think, considering the amount of money that invested in this races, I think have shorter term limits actually would be better because that this big special interest group wouldn’t be as much interested to spend money, and actually maybe some person, good American with good intent would be able to win in some of these races, not only people that are able to raise money and have their own money. The longer you stay here, I think you are either two things; you become part of this swamp or you completely give up. So I think you learn your first term, you make some move, but you know what, if you cannot accomplish something in six years, probably let someone else to try it.
Victoria Spartz: So I think actually this is something that we have to highly consider. I think fresh ideas, we have many Americans, millions of Americans that could represent here. Fresh ideas, fresh energy, fresh deliberation would be actually very healthy for this institution. That it’s not run, it’s top down approach, but not run by big money. But actually we will be represented with the people and people don’t have to worry about as much about the next race, but worry more how we going to save this republic. Because a lot of issues here that we deliberating shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We have many Americans died for our freedoms and have this greatest experiment that ever existed in history of the world.
Victoria Spartz: And we have to remember, not just talk about it, it’s very easy to blame the other side and do presentations and circuses here, very easy, but actually challenge your own party. We’re the only people, lobby for the people and if we fail, our republic is going to fail and I’m not ready to give up. So I urge my colleagues to support.
Philip Blumel: It was also a big relief that the underhanded attempt to punish US Term Limits pledge signers failed. Now, as you recall, we were concerned rightly that there would be a move by McCarthy and allies to hold a vote per the deal, yes, but simultaneously to punish the term limits supporters in Congress by substituting the phony term limits bill, that if they voted for it would violate the pledge that over 100 House members signed. You can see that would put term limits supporters in a terrible bind. Here’s the big opportunity to vote for term limits, and yet they all signed a pledge that says they can’t do it because it’s a fake bill. It also would’ve sunk the very pledge program that brought HJR 11 to prominence in the House.
Philip Blumel: Would HJR 11 have made it before the Judiciary Committee of the US House without the hard work of all the activists and all the US Term Limits staffers pushing the pledge all the time to these members of Congress? And then the Congress people that took the plunge and signed on and support deserve credit too. Well, there’s no chance that this bill would’ve gotten a vote without that pledge program. And the folks that wanted to substitute a fake bill to punish the pledge signers knew what they were doing, but they failed. During the arguments at this hearing, the attempts to amend the bill failed. And so, we did get the clean vote on HJR 11 that we were promised by former Speaker McCarthy.
Philip Blumel: Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion here about the removal of McCarthy as speaker. It’s really outside the scope of this podcast, and I’m not sure I really understand the purpose of that, but I do understand the frustration that members had with McCarthy. His shenanigans on this simple term limits bill vote were really, I don’t know, Machiavellian genius in a way, even if they weren’t successful. I mean, when you do nothing but politics for 20 years, you hone these types of skills. On the other hand, at the end of the day, we did get a vote as we were promised. So this is really all water under the bridge. I just thought you’d be interested in some of the details. Yeah, I figure if you are a listener of No Uncertain Terms, you are part of the inner circle of the term limits movement and deserve the full story.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: The term limits movement is advancing in force, and Fox 31 in Denver nails it in this recent piece.
Speaker 5: This morning, a new effort underway when it comes to maybe setting some term limits for those who are in the US House and Senate.
Speaker 6: Yeah, or even age limits.
Speaker 5: Yeah.
Speaker 6: I mean that’s been suggested in the wake of Mitch McConnell’s multiple medical episodes as well as Dianne Feinstein before her death. Carly Moore is on and live now to explain a new push. Carly?
Carly Moore: Hey, good morning, guys. Yeah, so this would be a bipartisan effort that would really take multiple states to get on board to have this big law in our country. Age limits are being considered. This one is specifically about term limits. Here’s what you need to know this morning. US Term Limits is the national organization that’s behind this effort to get a congressional amendment to pass this term limits for the US Constitution. So, again, not an age limit, but it would limit the number of terms, how long some of these politicians can serve. Right now there’s no specifics as to the exact number of terms because they say that’s something that will have to be debated as part of drafting the actual amendment. But I asked the spokesperson here exactly why this is such a big push?
Constantin Querard: There is a concern that they’re perhaps not connected to how life is now for America in general. It’s also a symptom that they’ve simply been there for too long. You’ve been there for 20, 30, 40 years, and that’s just not healthy for the institution. Your job should be to go fix things and come home. Most of them look at their job as keeping their job and staying there forever, and that’s a terrible motivation for getting good things done.
Carly Moore: Now, historically, term limits are widely supported in Colorado. Colorado passed term limits on its own legislature and members of Congress. We were one of the first states to do it in the early ’90s. Now, to do this nationally, it takes 2/3 of the states to pass it as an amendment. So 34 states would have to be on board. Now again, it’s still up for debate exactly how long the term limits would be and whether there’s going to be a tidbit in there prohibiting maybe people from going from the House to the Senate back and forth, ’cause we’ve seen that happen as well, or whether there would just be a broad encompassing term limits listed. But really the goal here is to make sure that people are elected based on merit, not on seniority. Live in Denver, Carly Moore, Fox 31.
Philip Blumel: The US Term Limits rep quoted but not audibly named here is Constantin Querard, who I met for the first time at our US Term Limits Leadership Summit in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Folks like Constantin are going to get this job done.
Philip Blumel: Next, Senator Dianne Feinstein is dead at age 90. Now, I don’t know what more can be said about this. She was a successful career politician who opposed term limits and grew tragically into a poster child for term limits. At the end, she was led around and exploited by the apparatus that surrounded her. Because of this, she is partly responsible for the current surge of interest in term limits, and for this, maybe we should be thankful. In any case, rest in peace, Senator Feinstein.
Philip Blumel: Okay, let’s go back to the House Judiciary Committee vote on the US Term Limits Amendment Bill, HJR 11 again. I wanna say that ultimately this was a net positive. It showcased our issue in the Congress and it also showcased our organization, US Term Limits, as our Executive Director was called as the primary advocate of Congressional term limits to speak before the committee. It showed the power of the Congressional Pledge Program and the fear and loathing that it engenders from politicians. I mean, politicians point to adherence to their pledges with pride, and they also fear the consequences of breaking it. It also showed that even though we lost before this important committee, the margin was 17 to 19. I mean, we’re talking about two votes here. If the Congress were under sufficient pressure, that vote would go the other way. And of course, if they weren’t under the pressure they were under, they would never had a vote at all.
Philip Blumel: It also showed that Congress will not propose this amendment without external pressure, external to the Congress, and that’s where our state-based campaign comes in. As more and more states pass the Term Limits Convention Resolution, we’ll be able to box Congress into a corner and force their hand. It’s all coming together. The basement approval ratings of Congress, the bipartisan embarrassment of the gerontocracy, the successful term limits candidate pledge programs at the federal and state level, hearings, and a vote in the Judiciary Committee, six states having officially called for the amendment writing convention focused on the issue of congressional term limits with more to come. And right now, the US Term Limits team is the biggest and baddest that it has been in decades.
Philip Blumel: Okay, that’s my last word on that. Now, in the interest of balance, we give the last word of this episode to an eight term veteran of the US House, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia. Johnson is one of the nasty 19 who sunk HJR 11 last week. And he’s also an expert on… [laughter] I’m sorry, he’s also an expert on Guam, as evidenced by this exchange before the House Armed Forces Committee hearing in 2010.
Hank Johnson: This is a island that at its widest level is what, 12 miles from shore to shore, and at its smallest level or smallest location, it’s 7 miles between one shore and the other. Is that correct?
Adm. Robert Willard: I don’t have the exact dimensions, but to your point, sir, I think Guam is a small island…
Hank Johnson: Very small island and about 24 miles, if I recall, long. I don’t know how many square miles that that is. Do you happen to know?
Adm. Robert Willard: I don’t have that figure with me, sir. I can certainly supply it to you if you’d like.
Hank Johnson: Yeah, my fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
Adm. Robert Willard: We don’t anticipate that.
Philip Blumel: Ooh, that clip never gets old. Have a great week.
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: 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’ll 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’s not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US 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.
Speaker 2: Find us on most social media at US Term Limits. Like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now LinkedIn.
Speaker 11: USTL.