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2012 ElectionConstitutionHistoryOpinionPolitics

Is It Time for the Term Limit Debate, Again?

What do Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and independent candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode have in common?

They are in favor of a Constitutional Amendment for Congressional term limits.

During the recent Independent Candidates debate, when asked what one amendment would they propose for the Constitution, both Johnson and Goode proposed congressional term limits.

The Washington Post reported that during a recent town-hall meeting in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Paul Ryan said he supported congressional term limits. When asked he said, “I agree with that. I’ve always supported that in Congress. That takes a constitutional amendment. What you don’t want to do is have a state do it to itself and short-change its seniority and its clout in Congress. But I’ve always been a fan of term limits. I’ve always supported that. I’ve always believed that this should be something that you serve temporary, not for an entire lifetime.”

Mitt Romney had discussed this concept earlier during a town hall meeting in Hudson, NH on December 11, 2011. When asked if he agreed with term limits, Romney said, “I surely agree with you … I would love to see term limits in Washington for our Senators and for our Congressmen … the vision in this country I’m sure in the mind of the founders was we would have citizen legislators … the great early leaders of this country and they went to Washington, served, and went home … wouldn’t that be nice … (but) some people go to Washington and then they stay to serve themselves …”

Yes, times were different then. George Washington turned down a third presidency, after barely agreeing to his second. It wasn’t until after FDR died during his fourth presidency that Congress finally decided enough was enough and the 22nd amendment was born, at least limiting the President to only two terms.

Given that the current Real Clear Politics average Congressional Job Approval rating is 15.4%, it is not that surprising that found 71% of Republicans, 65% of Independents, and 55% of Democrats were in favor of congressional term limits. That poll number fluctuates and so there is work to do for a vote on a term limit amendment to succeed.

It is also not surprising that Congress has yet to adopt limits for themselves. There are a few brave souls out there, however, proposing to do just that. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has sponsored S.J. Res. 11: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States … relative to limiting the number of terms that a Member of Congress may serve to 3 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate. The bill currently has (10) co-sponsors including: Ayotte, Kelly [R-NH], Coburn, Thomas [R-OK], Ensign, John [R-NV], Hutchison, Kay [R-TX], Johnson, Ron [R-WI], Lee, Mike [R-UT], Paul, Rand [R-KY], Rubio, Marco [R-FL], Toomey, Patrick “Pat” [R-PA], Vitter, David [R-LA].

The career politicians will argue that the American people should be trusted to choose their own leaders and if we don’t like them, we should vote them out. They may also argue that having congressional term limits amounts to showing we lack faith in the voters’ judgment. They also typically argue, like Orrin Hatch for example, that “having Senators and Representatives with experience in the legislative process can ensure that a particular state’s interests are being served” and “over time” the politicians, “become better equipped to help their constituents deal with the burdensome federal bureaucracy.”

Yeah right. They appear to become the burdensome bureaucracy. If the people want term limits, maybe they should “show some faith in the voters” and allow it to happen.

Yes, Governor Romney, it would be nice to have citizen legislators that are actually interested in serving their states and country and not themselves. Then we may actually have elected officials that can take time out of their successful business, engineering, economics, medicine, farming, and teaching careers to actually make a difference in mending this country, instead of better honing their manipulation skills.

There are a number of organizations promoting this concept. For more information you might start with

Image: George Washington resigning his commission.

G.C. Mandrake

GC Mandrake is the pen name for a psychologist, former Air Force Captain, and a strong advocate of the constitution, a balanced budget, and individual liberty. Website: