Donald Trump spoke directly about Congressional term limits during a speech, just weeks before his election by stating,”A constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress (is needed).” It was part of a “contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter.
The Trump administration currently has their hands full with foreign policy and tax reform. They seem to be undeterred by their failure to pass their first major piece of legislation. President Trump is indeed a supporter of Congressional term limits. Due to more pressing issues, the issue is not at the top of his agenda at the moment.
There are two ways that Congressional term limits could become a reality. Both require amending the United States Constitution, which currently allows Senators to serve an unlimited number of six-year terms and Legislators in the House to serve an unlimited amount of two-year terms.
To amend the constitution, a bill instituting term limits would have to pass both the House and the Senate by a 2/3rd’s vote.
The Washington-based group named US Term Limits support the second, more labor intensive method. It would require 2/3rds of state legislatures would have to pass a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention for Congressional term limits. This would mandate Congress to hold the convention. States would each send a representative to vote on proposed amendments. The final step would be getting 38 states to ratify the amendment.
It may sound like that process could only be successful in a fantasy. But term limits have overwhelming support from the public. In a recent Rasmussen poll, a staggering 74% of likely voters supported term limits for Congress.
Leading up to the 2016 election, the US Term Limits group got 48 lawmakers to sign onto a pledge to support term limits for Congressmen. In this current session of Congress, there have been seven bills introduced calling for term limits. Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida introduced the most successful bill to date, and it currently has 32 co-sponsors. Democrat Beto O’Rourke out of Texas is the only Democrat to co-sign onto the bill.
The last substantial push for Congressional term limits came during the 1993 midterm elections. It was a major plank in the Republican platform. But once the new Congress took their seats in 1994 the issue never passed.
To answer this question, I look no farther than my home Congressional district in the city of Milwaukee. Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore (Democrat) is entering her 12th year as a Rep. in the House. I live in this city and write about politics for a living and cannot name a single piece of significant legislation that she has introduced or had a major role in writing. She is there to toe the Democratic line and fill a seat. This district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that she hasn’t won by less than 20% in the last decade. She filled a vacant seat left by her predecessor. During that election, Milwaukee law police arrested her son for slashing the tires of her opponents get out the vote vehicles. And yet she is blindly reelected year after year.
This situation is not unique to Milwaukee. Major urban areas throughout the US blindly elect Democrats year after year by wide margins.
Over the course of the last decade, both House and Senate incumbents won on average approximately 90% of the time. Despite this astounding success rate congressmen and women spend an enormous portion of their time raising money. Senators and House Reps are not allowed to make fundraising calls from their government offices. So both parties developed the next best thing. Both parties have large call centers blocks from Capital Hill where legislators spend a ridiculous amount of time placing fundraising calls. Democrats blame it on Citizens United. Stating,”Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”