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Cruz, DeSantis Propose Congressional Term Limits

Cruz, DeSantis Propose Congressional Term Limits

Draining the swamp entails ending “political careerism” in Washington

One of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s promises on the campaign trail was to “drain the swamp,” and a part of that, he announced during his “Gettysburg Address,” would be his push for a Constitutional amendment requiring term limits for members of Congress.

In October, I wrote about this promise:

Trump on draining the swamp:

“[O]n the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

  • FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;”


This is a worthy goal, one that would go a long way to draining the swamp of long-time politicians ensconced in DC, beholden to lobbyists and donors and not to their constituents.  Rather than the current dismissive attitude toward the very taxpayers on whom many are dependent for their entire adult lives, including well after they leave office in the form of life-long pensions, term-limited members of Congress might be more inclined to keep their campaign promises.

To that end, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) have penned a piece in the Washington Post arguing for congressional term limits.

DeSantis, who was a Senate candidate in Florida prior to Marco Rubio deciding to run, chose not to receive his congressional pension and even filed a measure (that went nowhere) to eliminate congressional pensions.  Cruz has long been pushing for congressional term limits (as did much of the 2016 GOP presidential field).

Cruz and DeSantis write:

In an age in which partisan divisions seem intractable, it is remarkable that public support for congressional term limits is strong regardless of political affiliation — huge majorities of rank-and-file Republicans, Democrats and independents favor enacting this reform. Indeed, according to a Rasmussen survey conducted in October, 74 percent of likely voters support establishing term limits for all members of Congress. This is because the concept of a citizen legislature is integral to the model of our democratic republic.

Though our Founding Fathers declined to include term limits in the Constitution, they feared the creation of a permanent political class that existed parallel to, rather than enmeshed within, American society. As Benjamin Franklin said, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors. . . . For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them.”

We believe that the rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a drastic departure from what the founders intended of our federal governing bodies. To effectively “drain the swamp,” we believe it is past time to enact term limits for Congress.

Tying Americans’ clear lack of confidence and trust in the federal government to the need to limit the number of terms members of Congress serve, Cruz and DeSantis list the immediate changes to the calculus of seeking and holding congressional office.

Term limits will change the calculus of those who serve in Congress.

Without term limits, the incentive for a typical member is to stay as long as possible to accumulate seniority on the way to a leadership post or committee chair. Going along to get along is a much surer path for career advancement than is challenging the way Washington does business.

With term limits, we will have more frequent changes in leadership and within congressional committees, giving reformers a better chance at overcoming the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.

The American people have offered Republicans an opportunity to enact meaningful change. They have rejected the status quo and put the Washington elites on notice that they will no longer accept the old way of doing business.

It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions. Favors for the political elite have gone on for far too long. In Washington, where corruption and collusion abound, entrenched politicians live fat and happy cutting deals and breaking promises, while those who don’t oblige are shunned. Congressional term limits are critical to stopping the ongoing abuse by D.C. insiders.

Watch DeSantis speak from the floor of the House on term limits:

It might be added, as well, that a different quality of person might seek to serve in Congress than the grasping, self-serving types who seem to be the majority on both sides of the aisle.  With term limits, these people wouldn’t be drawn to a lifetime of leeching off of the American people and might instead seek work as race hustlers, community organizers, or media talking heads.  This would clear the way for people who truly seek to serve their district or state and its people.

The time that President Trump will have to enact the many important changes he’s promised will be short; like Obama before him, he will have only a couple of years, until the next midterm in 2018.  Congressional term limits is not only doable but an imperative part of his plan to drain the swamp.


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Good for Cruz. It is an amendment I have long favored.

Great article. McConnell is adamantly against this- surprise, surprise. This is how the swamp is actually drained. It’s the only way.

I think it’ll only happen by Article V convention of the states, but we should hold Trump to this promise.

Can Trump close the deal with McConnell and bring about actual change?

I lived in California and they have term limits and it doesn’t work. It didn’t convince me that term limits don’t work. It convinced me that the law didn’t go far enough…

1) Set limits to the terms of both House (3-6 terms) and Senate (2 terms).
2) Moratorium of at least 10 years from moving from one legislative body to the other.
3) Prohibit former legislators from becoming lobbyists for minimum 15 years.
4) Prohibit former legislators from becoming lobbyists for foreign governments for life.

Have one constitutional amendment that does all this and it will start to drain the swamp…

While there’s a lot to be said for term limits, the words “Constitutional Amendment” are, as a practical matter, code for “talk only—no danger of any real action”.

Part of the problem is career staffers in D.C.

Another problem is how U.S. Senators are elected. Once upon a time states elected their state senates by geographical districts. The Warren Court overturned that. How that is unconstitutional for states, but is how the United States Senate works, is beyond me. Bute the state senate elected the U.S. Senators. Last time I looked 24 of the 25 longest serving Senators were elected after we had direct election of Senators. Restore the election of Senators to senates in the states. Term limits won’t be needed for the U.S. Senate.

    Milhouse in reply to Milwaukee. | December 11, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Once upon a time states elected their state senates by geographical districts

    Um, they still do. Which state doesn’t?

    The Warren Court overturned that. How that is unconstitutional for states, but is how the United States Senate works, is beyond me.

    The court said that state districts have to have roughly equal population. The analogy to the US Senate is dishonest and ridiculous; the districts a state chooses to create within itself are its own creation, subordinate units of the state, and the state can draw them or undraw them as it pleases. The 14th amendment requires each state to give all its citizens equal protection, which means it can’t deliberately draw districts so as to give some of its citizens a greater voice than others.

    The USA, on the other hand, did not create the states; the states created the USA. The states are not subdivisions of the USA; rather, the USA is a union of sovereign and equal states, just like the UN or the EU. The USA can’t unmake states or redraw their boundaries without their consent. And the constitution specifically and deliberately gives the citizens of smaller states a greater voice in the senate than those of larger states; that was the deal on which the USA was founded, and the smaller states would never have agreed to join without it. The 14th amendment only requires equal treatment within states, not across them. So the analogy doesn’t fly.

    Bute the state senate elected the U.S. Senators.

    No, it did not. The state legislature — both houses — elected the senators.

    Restore the election of Senators to senates in the states.

    Again, it never belonged to state senates, but to state legislatures. And it’s a horrible idea. It would turn state elections into federal elections, in which the question of who is to be the new senator would swamp all local issues. State legislators would be elected the way that presidential electors are elected now, simply on the basis of whom they pledge to support for senate — and unlike presidential electors they would go on to make legislation for the state for two or four years. Imagine if the electoral college were to replace Congress! It would be a disaster.

    Here’s a better idea: turn the senate into the House of Governors. Each state governor is ex officio a member, and can vote either in person or by proxy. Since governors are busy running their states, they would each send a proxy to represent them in congress, but that proxy would have to vote as the governor instructed, and could be replaced at will. Or, if you like, keep the senate but have the governor appoint the state’s senators and be able to replace them at will, which will come to the same thing. That way you will have the states’ actual interests represented.

While I favor term limits, one concern is that this will indeed empower the career staffers in the various departments and agencies. Elected officials will come and go but the staff is there forever. Over time they’re the ones with the experience, biases, and connections. We run the risk of making the elected officials figureheads.

I’d like to think there is a solution for this but I don’t know of a practical one.

I hope we can look forward to some analysis of term limit proposals. As a time when Congress has lost power, it is not obvious that these proposals would help redress the imbalance.

Moreover, restrictions on becoming a lobbyist would seem to raise free speech issues: do we want to go there? Why bother when the restrictions coild be skirted by ex-legislators who become advisors to special interests without engaging in direct lobbying?

    Milhouse in reply to Norris. | December 11, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Glenn Reynolds has a better proposal: a 50% surtax on the increase in income of any former official, elected or appointed, for five years after leaving government employment. Whatever they made this year, minus what they used to make while still in office, is attributable to their time in office, so the government should take half. Then they pay income tax on what’s left.

buckeyeminuteman | December 12, 2016 at 7:50 am

I have an even better idea for the Presidency; 1 six-year term. The Office is far too important to spend 4 years kissing ass to get reelected and the last 4 years creating a legacy. One term would keep them focused and cut billions of dollars out of their decision-making capabilities.