Philip Blumel: 2023 and the great step forward. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement published on January 1, 2024. This is episode 229. Happy new year. In this abbreviated holiday episode, let’s look back at the progress of the term limits movement over the past year, and then ahead, and what we can expect from the new year. The biggest story of the year was, of course, in April when the term limits convention bill passed in Oklahoma. This made Oklahoma the sixth state to pass the resolution calling for an amendment writing convention under Article 5 of the US Constitution, limited to congressional term limits. Make no mistake, this is the most important project of US term limits. Every year we get another state to approve the resolution, we move a step closer to the goal of imposing term limits on the US Congress.
Philip Blumel: Congress, as you know, is not going to volunteer to pass term limits on themselves. It’s going to take enormous pressure from outside the Congress, that is from the people, from the President, perhaps from the supreme court, but mostly from the States. The founders of this country included the Article 5 in the Constitution as a lever for the states to go around Congress if Congress gets out of control. If 34 states call for amendment right convention, it shall be called according to the constitution, Congress does not have a say in the matter. Once convened, the convention can hammer out a proposal and send it to the state legislatures for ratification, and if 38 states approve, it becomes the law of the land.
Philip Blumel: Of course, historically, it’s never actually gotten that far. When a convention movement emerges, usually as part of a larger citizen movement, and Congress sees the writing on the wall, it has acted. And this was true with the direct election of senators. That is the 17th Amendment, and also Presidential term limits, the 22nd Amendment. You think Congress would never do this, even facing the threat of a convention run by state legislators who want their jobs? Don’t bet on that. We have the highest number of pledged supporters of the US term limits constitution amendment serving in Congress right now than ever before. We got four new congressional pledges from challengers just this last week. It’s a slow week because of the holidays. So how do we know if this is a winning strategy? Well, it’s worked before. Plus, every year, another state or two passes the resolution. Every year, we keep moving in the right direction. In 2023, Oklahoma became state number six. But that is only part of the story. The resolution also passed in the North Carolina House and the Tennessee House in March. In both of these states, the passage in one house carries over to the next year, so we only have to pass the Senate in each of these states to grab states number seven and eight in 2024.
Philip Blumel: So yes, we are winning. Victories in these states maybe obscures the ground work laid, and it does in other states where US term limits has been active in 2023. Places where you want committee votes, and we made new allies, plus we have more legislators who have signed pledges to support the term limits convention in the States than ever before. Now, none of these things are headlines in themselves, but they’re necessary to create the headline victories of next year that I’ll be bragging about. So the big story of 2023 is that our winning streak is continuing with regards to our number one strategy, but wait, there’s more. In 2023, we also had our first vote in the US Congress on the congressional term limits amendment since the 1990s. It was on September 28th, the Congressional term limits amendment bill got a vote of the House Judiciary Committee as promised by the former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Yes, we lost by two votes, and the amendment did not make it to the House floor for a full vote, but the fact that we had the vote at all tells a very important story. As I mentioned, we’re not naive, Congress is not going to volunteer to impose term limits on themselves.
Philip Blumel: So then how did we get to committee votes away from a house floor vote on the congressional term limits bill in 2023? Well, it started with the battle over the house speakership. Kevin McCarthy wanted the job and it took several rounds of voting for him to get it. Along the way, he had to make deals with Congress members to secure their votes, and one of them was with Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina, the chief sponsor of HJR11, the US Term Limits Amendment bill that McCarthy promised to vote, and he delivered it, albeit not without simultaneously taking steps to undermine it. In any case, the vote was held. Now, all of the US Term Limits pledge signers present voted yes. Don’t undermine the power of those pledges kids, in the end, we lost by two votes, so do you see how this lever could work? More and more states call for the term limits convention, Congress members get spooked and take steps to co-op the convention by proposing its own amendment, which a decent percentage of Congress has pledged in writing to support. The public is supportive to say the least, and grandstanders emerge to ride this popular time.
Philip Blumel: So the mix of self-interest, of genuine conviction and even political grandstanding leads to Congress proposing the amendment. So big story number two of 2023 is the first house vote on a Congressional term limits amendment in a generation. Next, and this feeds into the first two, is the explosion of public interest and support for term limits in 2023. Now, in a sense this is old news, term limits are always popular, they’re always everywhere, what we call an 80:20 issue. Over 80% of voters want to see term limits on Congress. Alright, but this year, a Pew Research Center national poll put the number at 87, the highest national number we’ve ever seen, why?
Philip Blumel: The top explanation we think is the spotlight placed on specific members of Congress, mainly in the Senate, who are automatically reelected over and over until they cannot even function, and recall the spectacle of California Senator Dianne Feinstein being rolled into committee meetings and even told what to say right in front of everyone, and not even competent enough to say it at the appropriate time, forgetting how she was supposed to vote, even though they’re there telling her. She was falling apart and died in the spotlight due to seniority politics, due to power and greed, due to the lack of term limits. The humiliating end to Senator Feinstein’s life shocked Americans who told pollsters that they see term limits as the answer.
Philip Blumel: As Senator Feinstein was declining, we were retreated to a bipartisan response from Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who froze on two occasions. We watched with horror and embarrassment as the Senate majority leader’s frailties made front page news. Now, when I say elected automatically, please understand I am being literal. In 2022, every single member of the US Senate running for their own seat was reelected. Incumbents won 100% of the time. Now, please, please memorize and share that fact. In 2022, every member of the US Senate running for their own seat was reelected, incumbents won 100% of the time. The system is broken and voters know it, so record support for term limits in light of the stumbling gerontocracy is top story number three of 2023.
Speaker 2: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: In December 2017, a bipartisan-panel discussion is held at the US capital with two of the most vocal congressional term limits supporters in Washington, Senator Rand Paul and former US Representative Beto O’Rourke. After discussing the benefits of term limits, the Republican Senator and Democratic Representative agreed that advancing the term limits convention via the states, would put a fire under Congress to act. You might recognize the voice of the moderator here, our own executive director, Nick Tomboulides.
Nick Tomboulides: Can you mention the Article 5 convention?
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: For those of you who are unaware, Article 5 of the Constitution actually gives us two ways to obtain the constitutional amendment for congressional term limits. The first is, it can be proposed by two-thirds vote in Congress, which I think Congressman Blum referred to as the turkeys voting for Thanksgiving, and second approach is getting two-thirds of state legislators to call for term limits on Congress, which would allow the states to effectively bypass the swamp here in Washington, DC. Senator Paul, what do you think of that approach?
Sen Rand Paul: I’m for it. I’ve had a lot of supporters through the years that were worried about it, and they said, “Well, what if it comes together, they’ll rewrite the constitution and we’ll no longer have a constitution,” and my response is, “We haven’t had a constitution in at least 70 years that anybody obeys in any kind or form. The core is pretty much a quit or bang or strict construction of the constitution in years and years, decades ago, but what I would say is what would probably happen is we would gather legislature after legislature, when we’re this close to having a convention. Congress would wake up and that would be the day that we pass term limits. We need some kind of push forward, and it’s never coming from up here.
Nick Tomboulides: Right. Congressman, O’Rourke, what do you think of that with the threat of a potential convention coming from the states light a fire under Congress to act on term limits?
Beto O’Rourke: Yeah, I think that because of some of the things that we talked about right now about how focused members of Congress are on their re-elections and maintaining their purchase on power, that if they were to sense that in their states, this has become the driving priority they’re going to act on that to ensure that they are able to stay in power, and maybe that constitutional amendment only applies going forward and current members are grandfathered, if that were the price to do it, I would gladly sign up though I am term limited myself, I told my constituents because I believe in them, I would serve no more than four terms in the House, eight years. I’m in the middle of my third term and I’m not seeking re-election, running for the Senate right now, and if elected, I’ve told my constituents I would serve no more than two terms 12 years, regardless of whether or not other members are held to the same standard. I feel like you gotta be able to walk the walk if you’re really gonna be able to lead on this. So however we get there, and you’d hope that you’d have some public pressure that would drive this here, I think it’s important enough that we support it, wherever it takes place.
Philip Blumel: The next big story of 2023 was the presidential election, the attention the public paid to term limits issue in 2023 was not lost on our presidential candidates. One after another of the President and potential Presidential challengers of both parties, at the very least paid lip service to congressional term limits. Republicans Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie, Democrat Dean Phillips and even potential independent senator, Joe Manchin and Mitt Romney. Former President Trump even reiterated his nominal support of the reform, but a few have gone beyond lip service, DeSantis, Haley, and Ramaswamy have signed the US term limits presidential pledge to support congressional term limits. DeSantis and Haley have created videos focused on the need for term limits.
Philip Blumel: Term limits are recurring talking point of Minnesota representative Dean Phillips, who also actively supported term limits for the Democratic leadership during the speakership campaign of Nancy Pelosi in 2018. And I should note that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis actually produced a video promising to use his bully pulpit as President to push the term limits convention in the States. Can you imagine the position of Congress with states threatening the term limits convention, the President actively pushing a term limits constitutional amendment or convention, and all this occurring with the support and attention of the voters at all time highs. In the back of your mind, admit it, you said yourself, congressional term limits, that’s a great idea, but it’ll never happen.
Philip Blumel: But is that really true? Can it never happen? I mean, of all the earth-shaking meta-level government reforms that you might dream about achieving, isn’t term limits actually the one with the most chance of success? Okay, so all the momentum is on our side. What about 2024? Where do we go from here? All eyes are on Tennessee and North Carolina. Now, as I mentioned, these states have passed the term limits convention in the respective houses, and in each state, the Senate will have their say in 2024, and we are optimistic. Tennessee looks to be in the lead to be the seventh state to approve the Term Limits Convention Resolution Bill. It’s resolution HJR5 there, and as I said, it passed the Tennessee house in March, and it gets its next hearing in the Senate in January 2024. Now leading the charge is Knoxville County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and US Term Limits’ own Aaron Dukette. But the people, as well as many political leaders and opinion makers are right there beside them. Crucially, state Senator Richard Briggs, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Affairs Committee has agreed to pick up the House Joint Resolution 5 as the lead sponsor in the senate. And he is the chair of the first committee where the bill will be heard.
Philip Blumel: Activists are going door-to door in key districts in Tennessee right now, alerting voters about the January opportunity we have. The Tennessee Star newspaper says that the resolution is expected to pass, and I’m not gonna argue with that. Maybe North Carolina too or likewise, tremendous ground work has already been laid. What other state will break through in 2024? I don’t know. We’ll see, we’re operating in about a dozen states, but the largest US term limits staff ever. Now, if you’re a US term limits supporter, thank you for making this possible. And incidentally, I wanna say that I, as president of US Term Limits, am not a paid staffer. I’m a US Term Limits contributor just like you, and I wouldn’t be if I didn’t see victory as a real possibility, I can assure you that. We can also be sure that our team will be collecting even more written pledges from candidates for Congress to support the US Term Limits amendment and members of state legislatures to support the term limits convention resolution in their states. The simple pledge is a crazy powerful tool on this issue.
Philip Blumel: Alright, what else? As a Floridian, I am particularly excited about the possibility that all of Florida’s county commissions may be term limited next year. You might recall that in 2022, the Florida legislature voted to impose eight-year term limits on all of the state school boards. This matches the term limit of the state legislature, the governor, in lots of cities and counties throughout the state. Well, a new bill has been introduced by state representative Michelle Salzman of Pensacola, it’s HB57 in this last session. That would impose eight-year term limits on all of the counties that don’t already have them.
Philip Blumel: In large part because Ron DeSantis is the governor, this bill is going to get a serious hearing. 12 counties including most of the largest ones already have term limits in Florida, that includes Miami-Dade, Broward, that’s where Fort Lauderdale is, Palm Beach, Orange, which is Where Orlando is. And yes, even corrupt Pinellas County, which refuses to enforce them, but only a few counties in Florida actually have the right to choose term limits themselves, and that’s a key point why the state legislature has to act. Under the Florida constitution, counties are creations of the state and do not have sufficient local autonomy to permit citizen initiatives, but 20 counties in the state have been specially approved as so-called charter or home rule counties and have been given such power by the state. So 12 of the 20 charter counties have passed term limits so far.
Philip Blumel: And this bill will also solve the Pinellas problem too, and it will also extend term limits over the rest of the states counties. But first and foremost, I am looking forward to a couple of new states approving the term limits convention resolution, which is the real measure of success for the term limits movement. Before I sign off for 2023, I wanna thank all of our listeners of this podcast. US Term Limits creates a lot of content for different platforms, including simple internet memes to newsletters, to videos, to pitch books for legislators, you name it, but in my mind, the No Uncertain Terms podcast is intended for the inner circle of the term limits movement, the core activists, people wanna follow and to assist in every twist and turn on our way to reform the US Congress. You and I are going to win this. I mean it. Stay tuned.
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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.
Philip Blumel: 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 has 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.
Stacey Selleck: Find us or the most social media at US Term Limits, like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now, LinkedIn.
Speaker 7: USTL.