A significant majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum support Congressional term limits Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) explained while chairing a hearing on the subject this week.
The conservative senator has already introduced a constitutional amendment to limit House members to three terms (6 years) and Senators to two terms (12 years). The amendment currently has 14 Senate Republican cosponsors and none of them were elected before 2010 according to Sen. Cruz.
While noting that congressional term limits would not cure all of the problems in the nation’s Capitol, former Senator Jim DeMint testified that term limits would benefit the country by disrupting the current swampy system operating in Washington.
“The Senate in particular no longer functions as a legislative body at all. Leaders of both parties have shut down deliberative floor debate and amendment votes for the sole purpose of shielding Senators from political, politically controversial votes, thereby denying the American people’s right to an accountable legislature. Members who criticize this dysfunctional shirts-versus-skins approach are chastised for not being team players, and threatened with being cut off from their party leaders’ special interest fundraising gravy train,” he said.
DeMint also explained that legislators “are reassured that this process, however imperfect, is simply how they make their way in Washington—but in truth, it’s how Washington makes its way into them. Lifelong tenure incentivizes members to prioritize the next election over the next generation, and partisanship over statesmanship. It realigns their interest away from the American people and towards the swamp,” he explained.
DeMint said that he entered congress as a term limit supporter and supports them because of his own experiences. He also said that the seniority system is a serious problem.
“I am very well aware of all the arguments on both sides. But when I came to Congress I supported term limits in theory, now I support it after seeing what really happens here. And we know, as I said before, that power corrupts and it has corrupted absolutely here in Washington and it’s the seniority system that drives it all.”
Sen. Cruz said that his own support for term limits has grown “a thousand times more” after serving in the Senate.
DeMint, who self-imposed a term limit on himself while serving in Congress, explained that doing so reduces a legislator’s access to money and power in DC. He said that he “was denied committees” and he was informed that to raise funds in DC he would need to scrap his term-limit promise.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said that “the most effective term limits are elections and the most knowledgeable term limiters are voters.” She offered multiple suggestions she believes would boost voting, including, “by making voter registration as simple as possible, by stopping unnecessary and discriminatory purging of voter rolls, by making it easier for people to vote early or allow them to vote by mail.”
“We should pass any of the very sound bills proposed by my colleagues that would require reporting of offers of foreign election interference, secure election systems and require paper ballots,” she also said. “We don’t need to artificially restrict voters’ choices. Instead, we should expand voting access and opportunities. The more eligible Americans who vote in every election, the better,” she said.
She said that at the state level, “term limits have served to strengthen the executive branch at the expense of legislatures. They make lobbyists more, not less influential, and they restrict voters’ choices.”
Senators Cruz and Hirono both agreed that former members of Congress should be subject to a permanent ban on lobbying.