Philip Blumel: Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever, a US Term Limits pledge signer is the Speaker of the US House. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits movement. This is episode 225, published on November 6th, 2023.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. For the first time ever, a signer of the US Term Limits Congressional term limits pledge, that’s the commitment to co-sponsor and vote for the US Term Limits amendment, is holding the gavel in the House, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Now, not only did he sign the pledge, but he’s already fulfilled it by co-sponsoring Representative Ralph Norman’s amendment bill, but also had the opportunity to vote for it, and he did. He was one of the 17 “yay” votes when HJR 11 had its day before the Judiciary Committee in September and lost by two votes. Interestingly, Johnson was the chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee that held hearings on the bill in September. He tweeted in favor of it, saying it was a long-overdue proposal that we should all support.
Philip Blumel: Recall, I’m sure, that US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides, testified in favor of the bill in front of this committee and had some interaction with Johnson on that day. I’ll play it for you in a second. It may sound in this clip like Johnson is challenging Nick here, but he’s really just teeing him up, and Nick, of course, hit it out of the park. Did I just mix metaphors, or did I really make a tee-Ball analogy? Sorry, Nick. I guess I need an editor. Anyways, let’s hear the clip. Speaker Mike Johnson and Nick Tomboulides. Roll it.
Speaker Mike Johnson: We’ve got to answer some of this, Mr. Tomboulides. So you noted that Gallup says 83% of Americans believe in term limits now. There’s good reasons for that. One of the difficult questions that’s been brought up today and that we get often is about the unintended consequences. So how do you answer the objection that if we impose term limits in Congress, the professional staff who have long careers here will be the ones with all the institutional knowledge and they’ll effectively become the unaccountable ruling class? What’s the answer to that?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, first of all, I do find it very ironic that the point has been made here that representatives will be choosing the people over term limits when it’s actually 83% of the people who want term limits. So I think the people don’t just have a limited right to elect their representatives, they absolutely have a right to decide the parameters around elected office. Senator Mark Warner had a good quote. He called the US Federal Bureaucracy the largest in the world. Over the last 100 years, the bureaucracy in this nation has gone from 2.5% of GDP to 25% of GDP. According to the Federal Register, we have over 400 different departments, agencies, and sub-agencies, over 100,000 different federal rules and regulations. This is the biggest bureaucracy.
Nick Tomboulides: And yet, puzzlingly, Congress has never had term limits. So therefore, we are left to conclude that this entire bureaucracy that everyone has a problem with, that has become so unaccountable and undemocratic, that was created by career politicians. It wasn’t created by term limits. Career politicians created the enabling laws. They sustained it. They perpetuated it. And they supplied it with a limitless stream of funding. So if the charge is creating bureaucracy, I must say we are putting the wrong defendant on trial. It is career politicians over and over again who blow up bureaucracy, not term limits. But I will tell you, Representative, there is a relationship between term limits and bureaucracy. Term limits reduce bureaucracy. We know this because it happens at the state level.
Nick Tomboulides: There was a paper by Randy Holcombe, Florida State University professor. He found that states with term limits reduced the size of their bureaucracy. There was an analysis done by the National Taxpayers Union, which found that the longest-serving members of Congress vote to spend the most money on bureaucracy. And then there was another paper that just came out last year by an NYU professor, Mona Vakilifathi, who found that in states with term limits, the legislators actually give bureaucrats a more confined mandate and less discretion with respect to what they can do. So the laws are written to bureaucrats, you must implement our law this way, other than you may implement our law this way. And that is a tremendous difference because it means that those legislators, those democratically elected legislators will have their policy wishes carried out into the next generation, as opposed to letting unelected bureaucrats decide the rules of the game.
Philip Blumel: So, we have a pledge signer at the top spot in the House. What’s next? Well, I wish we had a House Speaker on our side during the judiciary vote on HJR 11. If that were true, it’s unlikely that three pledge signers would have decided they were too busy to attend the vote. But now, post-vote, I’m not quite sure yet what to do. We’re working on it. Next, we have some fresh polling from Rhode Island that looks pretty much like any other poll on term limits we ever see. The only reason why I bring it up at all is to emphasize, once again, the genuine nonpartisan nature of this issue. Rhode Island, as you know, is a true blue state. The Democratic Party controls the Office of Governor and both houses of the legislature there. The last time Rhode Island voted for a Republican presidential candidate was for Reagan in 1984.
Philip Blumel: Now, if you listen to this podcast regularly, you know how much it drives me crazy when a politician or a pundit suggests that term limits is a Republican issue. I hate that. I believe this myth is an artifact of the early 1990s Contract with America era that must be put to bed. Fortunately, the voters of Rhode Island know better. Rhode Islanders were asked how many of them favor term limits on Congress. The answer, 83%, just like everywhere else. And what kind of term limits do they advocate? Pollsters let the respondents choose, and 64% chose six years or less. Now, that’s three terms, just like HJR 11 proposed. 20% chose eight years or four terms, the most common term limits in the United States. But guess how many answered 12 years or more? Six terms or 12 years being the favorite term limit of politicians, of course, everywhere. Well, 6% chose 12 years or more. That’s right, 6%. So when politicians try to use partisanship or an insistence on 12-year term limits as some kind of wedge to divide Americans on term limits, keep in mind that politicians are standing up for their own self-interest and not those of their constituents.
Speaker 5: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: We have had several presidential contenders come out in favor of congressional term limits this year. But we hadn’t heard much about how they’re going to get that job done. Until now. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was campaigning in Clinton, Iowa, and he promised he would, as president, “Use my bully pulpit to push the term limits convention in the states. It’ll be something we’ll start in our first year,” he says.
Ron DeSantis: So the question’s on term limits. I’m a big supporter of term limits. We have them in the Florida legislature. It works. It’s much better than what we have in DC. We’ve got people in DC that have been there 40 years. People in there… It looks like it’s not uncommon to have people in their 80s with all this there. And look, I’m governor of Florida. I’ve got a lot of regard for people in their 80s. We’ve got a lot. They’re my supporters. But I’m not sure we want to incentivize serving in Congress until you basically pass away, is what we’re now seeing with a lot of these folks. So I think it’s neat. So here’s the thing. Congress is never gonna do this. So that’s a dead end. And I support Congress doing it. I wish they would, but they’re not. So the only other way you do it is through the states.
Ron DeSantis: So Florida has already certified term limits. Other states have certified. So what I’ll do as president, I’ll use the bully pulpit. We’ll start with every Republican legislature, and we’re going to advocate that they do a term limits amendment. And I think you can even get some Democrat legislatures to do it because term limits is not a partisan issue. Democrats like it. Republicans, independents. Male or female. Black, White. You name it, it transcends all this stuff. So that’s why you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it through the states. It’ll be something we start in our first year. It’s gonna take… It’ll take some time because you’ve got a lot of moving pieces. But I think if a president uses the bully pulpit on it, this is not like you’re trying to sell ice to an Eskimo or anything. I mean, you literally have a product with term limits that 80-90% of the public supports. So I think we’re going to be able to make progress on it. I know we’ll get a lot of states to certify. We’ve got to get a certain number of states. I think we need 35. A number of them have done it already. And we’re also going to do that with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution because we need to do that as well.
Philip Blumel: Speaking of Ron DeSantis, he signed the US term limits presidential pledge the other day. He is the third candidate for president of the United States to do so. This is the pledge that reads, “I, as a candidate for president of the United States, pledge to support congressional passage and state ratification of an amendment to the US Constitution that would set term limits on service in the US Senate and US House, just as there are term limits on the president as enacted by the 22nd Amendment.” This pledge has already been signed by Nikki Haley and also by Vivek Ramaswamy. Way to go, Ron. Next, as I’ve said before, politics attracts all kinds, but the corrupt and the deviant are attracted to this industry like no other. We return today to the pathetic saga of career politician, Senator Ray Holmberg. Holmberg was a 45-year veteran of the North Dakota legislature before resigning due to a sex scandal last year.
Philip Blumel: Well, he’s back in the headlines again as, last week, Senator Holmberg was charged with traveling to Prague with the intent of paying for sex with a minor and with receiving images depicting child sexual abuse, according to federal indictment that was unsealed last week. At US Term Limits, we were introduced to State Senator Holmberg for his public opposition to the successful 2022 Citizens Initiative imposing term limits on the North Dakota governor and legislature. I recall the big headline in the Grand Forks Herald in 2021 that said, “Term limits? No way,” says North Dakota’s longest serving senator. In that article, Senator Holmberg suggested the term limits initiative was anti-democratic. Anti-democratic. [chuckle] Even though the issue made it to the ballot via the Citizens Initiative, which required thousands of signed petitions from citizens, right, to put on the ballot.
Philip Blumel: Then, it passed by the voters on election day in 2022 with 63% of the vote. Then, of course, going into effect eight years hence, term limits will create open seats in every single district, which means competitive elections. And so with competitive elections and open seats, we’ll have more opposed races. We’ll have more elections. We’ll have more candidates. We’ll have more meaningful citizen participation in the process. Anti-democratic. To a long-term incumbent politician, it sometimes seems that the definition of healthy democracy is when they can run and win without any opposition. A prosecutor said in a statement that Holmberg, using aliases, repeatedly traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic from June 2011 to November 2016 for the purpose of paying for sex with a person under 18 years old. The indictment says he received images that depict child sexual abuse from November 2012 to March 2013.
Philip Blumel: It appears he even misused tax money to fund some of his European trips. According to the Associated Press, Holmberg was reimbursed roughly $126,000 for nearly 70 out-of-state trips from 2013 through mid-April 2022 to places that included four dozen US cities, Canada, Puerto Rico, and several European countries. Well, Senator Holmberg resigned from the North Dakota legislature last year after the publication, The Forum, revealed that he had exchanged dozens of text messages with a person who was jailed on charges related to child sexual abuse images. If he wasn’t caught, it was likely that this 78-year-old would still be in the legislature. He was first elected back in 1976. Now, was he the deviant criminal of today back then, or did his character weaknesses fester for 45 years and grow in an environment that encourages arrogance, hubris, and lack of accountability? He certainly must have felt invincible, rolling back into office again and again with large majorities that come with the power of incumbency. Well, we can’t know the answers to these questions, of course, but if he had been term-limited out of office in 1984 after eight years, we wouldn’t even be asking them.
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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 bills have not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Terms 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: Find us on most social media @USTermLimits. Like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now, LinkedIn.