Tag Archives: term limits

Term limits for SCOTUS justices? Oh, c’mon!

You are entitled officially now to consider your friendly blogger to be a constitutional originalist, meaning that the founders got it right when they established lifetime appointments for members of the federal judiciary.

Oh, but let’s hold on.

Some congressional Democrats want to rewrite the Constitution by establishing that Supreme Court justices are limited to serving just 18 years on the nation’s highest court. They don’t like the makeup of the current court and they want to shake things up in a way that, to my way of thinking, well could bring the framers jumping out of their graves.

This is a preposterous solution to an issue that is the result of the electoral process.

This term-limit idea comes from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. His bill also would require presidents to nominate two justices to the court during his or her term in office.

Oh, sigh.

In a statement accompanying the legislation, Johnson attacked the current makeup of the Supreme Court, saying that the Court is “facing a legitimacy crisis” because of its conservative majority, and because five of six conservatives were appointed by Presidents who did not win a majority of the popular vote.”

“This Supreme Court is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis,” Johnson said. “Five of the six conservative justices on the bench were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and they are now racing to impose their out-of-touch agenda on the American people, who do not want it.  Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court.”

Democrat Bill Would Impose Term Limits On SCOTUS Justices, Mandatory Replacements Every Two Years | The Daily Wire

Let me make this point one more time. Donald Trump did not win the popular vote in 2016. President George W. Bush, though, did win the popular vote in 2004 prior to nominating Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito to the court. However, that misses a fundamental point: Both Trump and Bush won election to the presidency because they garnered more Electoral College votes than their opponents. Their elections were legal, yes, even though many of us detested the result.

The founders sought to de-politicize the federal judiciary by granting judges lifetime appointments. I will acknowledge freely that the courts have become political, however. As for the argument that Rep. Johnson and other Democrats have said about the court lacking “legitimacy,” that argument falls most directly on the head of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who should recuse himself from any decision involving Trump’s Big Lie.

Again, is that a sufficient reason to rewrite the Constitution? No. It isn’t.

The best way to bring needed reform in the selection of our federal judiciary is to elect presidents and members of Congress who will nominate and then approve federal judges more to their liking.

The system never has been perfect. Then again, the framers only vowed to create a “more perfect Union.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Legislative turnover on tap

Personnel turnover either freshens governing bodies or it poisons them, depending on who succeeds the members who are exiting the stage.

The Texas Legislature is on the cusp of seeing an astonishing turnover of veteran senators and House members. At last count, 28 House members are either retiring from public life or are surrendering their seats to seek another public office. Five Texas senators aren’t seeking re-election. As the story by Gromer Jeffers Jr. points out in the Tuesday Dallas Morning News, several “moderate Republicans” are among those who are leaving the Senate. They include, Jeffers wrote, my old pal Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Larry Taylor of Friendswood, as well as Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, who was described in the Dallas Morning News story as the “fifth-most centrist Republican in the Senate.”

Who will replace these individuals? Given the huge partisan divide in both legislative chambers and the radical elements in both major parties, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the future of good government.

Retiring state Rep. John Turner, a moderate Dallas Democrat, said the significant turnover in the Legislature “just heightens the polarization.” He talked about Republicans becoming more conservative and Democrats “losing some of their moderates” and how the vacancies could be filled by those with more radical agendas.

Will there be a bipartisan battle between culture warriors as a result? Time will tell. Suffice to say that we remain concerned that the 2023 Texas Legislature is going to become an even more divided and divisive body than its 2021 version. That version was quite divided, indeed. Let us recall how House Democrats fled the state to prevent House Republicans from enacting a controversial bill that sought to restrict voter access for many Texans. Democrats called it “voter suppression,” but Republicans called it “voter protection” against possible future fraud.

Redistricting has played a part in the turnover. Some legislators are leaving because their colleagues created legislative districts that favored candidates from the other party. Some lawmakers are seeking higher office. Democratic state Rep. Michelle Beckley of Carrollton, for example, is now running for her party’s nomination for lieutenant governor; her House district now favors the Republican candidate. State Rep. Scott Sanford of McKinney is retiring for the same reason, as his newly redrawn Collin County district favors the Democratic Party candidate.

Legislative turnover isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing by itself. If the newly constituted Legislature takes over in 2023 with the state’s best interests in mind, then we well might benefit from an electoral cleansing. If we welcome more rigid ideologues into the Legislature, then we are in for a rough ride.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Term limits turn politics on its ear

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You know how this plays out.

Conservatives who are upset with government want to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to impose new rules that the founders never imagined when they drafted it back in the late 18th century.

What do they want to add to our Constitution? Why, they insist on limiting the terms of members of Congress, House members and senators.

But … wait a second!

Aren’t these folks the so-called “strict constructionists” among us? Aren’t they the individuals who supposedly honor what the founders had in mind when they cobbled together our nation’s government document?

Sure. As long as it suits their current political agenda.

It’s why I continue to resist the idea of term-limiting the legislative branch of government; I also oppose limiting the terms of the federal judiciary. For that matter, I am not at all crazy about term limits for the president of the United States. The founders didn’t limit the POTUS’s term, either. That came in 1947 when congressional Republicans, reportedly fearing an all-powerful presidency (given that Democrat Franklin Roosevelt won four presidential elections) decided to push for the 22nd Amendment; it was ratified in 1951.

However, again I must wonder what happened to the strict constructionist wing of the GOP, which is fond of suggesting that we need to honor what the founders intended originally when they built our country from the ground up?

Sure, we have corrected some of the mistakes the founders made back in the beginning. Women now can vote; we have made slavery illegal, to name just two midcourse corrections.

I continue to believe the founders got it right when they declined to limit terms of service. Indeed, as I long have noted: We already have term limits; we call them “elections.”

Memo to Steyer: Congress isn’t ‘appointed’

As if yet another billionaire presidential candidate is more astute than the one who’s in office already.

I heard a TV ad today from Tom Steyer, one of two billionaires seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Steyer, who burst onto the national scene by financing an impeach Donald Trump effort nationally, needs a basic civics lesson if he’s going to make a pitch for good government.

Steyer’s advertisement, which makes the pitch for mandated term limits, referred — in Steyer’s own voice — to Congress being “appointed to what amounts to a lifetime job.”

C’mon, Tom! Get with the program, dude!

Congress isn’t appointed to anything. House of Representatives members run for election and/or re-election every two years. Senators serve for six-year elected terms.

Therefore, we already have a form of term limits on the books. The U.S. Constitution has taken care of that matter by requiring elections for the entire House every other year, along with one-third of the Senate. Voters have plenty of opportunities, I submit, to limit the terms of members with their ballots.

Whether they choose to keep their House member or their senator in office until hell freezes over is their call exclusively. If their elected official is doing a good job, then they get to keep doing a good job. If not, well, voters can boot ’em out.

Term limits? We have them already!

In defense of a congressman’s non-commitment

Mac Thornberry is now officially a lame-duck member of Congress, given his announcement today that he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to another term representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

I have plenty of issues with Thornberry and his tenure as a member of Congress. However, I feel compelled to defend him on a point for which he was pilloried and pounded over many years since taking office.

Mac Thornberry did not, despite claims to the contrary, ever make a personal pledge to limit the number of terms he would serve in the House of Representatives.

He ran in 1994 for the House under the Contract With America banner waved at the front of the Republican ranks by future Speaker Newt Gingrich. The CWA contained among other items a provision to limit House members to three terms. The idea was to serve six years and then bow out, turning the seat over to new faces, with new ideas.

The term limits provision needs a constitutional amendment. The House has not referred an amendment to the states for their ratification. Thornberry, though, has voted in favor of every proposed amendment whenever it has come to a vote of the full of House.

Thornberry never made a personal pledge. Indeed, he has been elected and re-elected 13 times to the 13th District seat. He ascended to Republican leadership over the course of his tenure, being awarded the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.

I just feel the need to defend Thornberry against false accusations that he reneged on his pledge to limit the amount of time he would serve in Congress. Thornberry knew better than to make a pledge he well might be unable or unwilling to keep, such as former Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington state, who defeated the late Tom Foley in that landmark 1994 CWA election. Nethercutt pledged to limit his terms, then changed his mind … and eventually faced the wrath of his constituents for reneging on his promise.

Mac Thornberry doesn’t adhere to my own world view of how government should work. Indeed, I happen to oppose congressional term limits, believing that elections by themselves serve the purpose of limiting the terms of congressmen and women who do a bad job. That’s not the point here.

He didn’t deserve the pounding he took from within the 13th Congressional District for allegedly taking back a campaign promise … that he never made.

Term limits for SCOTUS? Really, Sen. Booker?

Cory Booker needs to take a breath.

The U.S. senator from New Jersey and one of dozens (or so it seems) of Democrats running for president has pitched a notion of setting term limits for members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

C’mon, senator. Get a grip here!

The founders had it right when they established a federal judiciary that allows judges to serve for the rest of their lives. Lifetime appointments provides judges — and that includes SCOTUS justices — the opportunity to rule on the basis of their own view of the Constitution and it frees them from undue political pressure.

Sen. Booker is a serious man. I get that. He has an Ivy League law degree and is a one-time Rhodes scholar.

He’s also running for a political office in the midst of a heavily crowded field and is seeking to put some daylight between himself and the rest of the Democrats seeking to succeed Donald Trump as president.

Term limits for SCOTUS justices isn’t the way to do it.

We don’t need term limits for members of Congress, either. My view is that lifetime appointments for the federal judiciary has worked well since the founding of the Republic. There is no need to change the system based largely on a knee-jerk response to the current political climate.

John Dingell: RIP, dean of the House

I predict that after a certain amount of time has passed that some congressional critics are going to suggest that the late John Dingell was the embodiment of the need to impose limits on the terms of members of Congress.

I would argue that John Dingell embodied instead the best argument against such a restriction.

Dingell, a Democrat, served his Michigan congressional district for 59 years, the longest continual service in the history of the House of Representatives. He succeeded his father, who died in office. When he left office, Dingell turned it over to his wife, Debbie, who’s in the office at this moment.

Dingell served alongside every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

What is most remarkable about Dingell is that he accomplished so much while serving in the House. He was far from just a placeholder, a backbench bomb-thrower.

He was a former board member of the National Rifle Association, he helped champion environmental legislation, he was a friend of labor, he sought to elevate government oversight in Congress, he supported civil rights legislation and turned against the Vietnam War in 1971.

What we need to understand about Dingell’s nearly six decades in the House is that the voters who kept re-electing him were satisfied with the representation he gave them. Had he run off the rails at any time during his lengthy time in the House voters would have taken matters into their own hands. They would have booted him out. They chose instead to keep John Dingell on the job.

Therefore, I stand by the assertion that Rep. Dingell is a testament against a foolish and unnecessary restriction on members of Congress.

Wondering if term limits will return to debate stage

With all the hoo-hah in Washington about the battle of ideologies — conservative vs. liberal — I am wondering about the fate of the debate over term limits.

In 1994, Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, campaigned successfully on the Contract With America platform that included a silly proposition: to limit the terms of members of Congress.

Voters seemed to buy into the notion that we ought to place mandatory limits on the time House members and senators can serve. After all, we limit the president to two elected terms, thanks to the 22nd Amendment. Why not demand the same thing of Congress members?

Well, the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. It requires an amendment to the Constitution. Referring an amendment to the states for their ratification requires a two-thirds vote in both congressional chambers. Term limits proposals haven’t made the grade.

Term limits is primarily a Republican-led initiative. Democrats have dug in against the idea, saying correctly that “we already have term limits. We call them ‘elections.'”

I don’t favor mandatory limits. Indeed, there has been a significant churn of House members and senators already without the mandated limits. The new Congress comprises roughly a membership that includes roughly 25 percent of first-time officeholders. That ain’t bad, man!

Sure, there are deep-rooted incumbents from both parties who make legislating their life’s calling. However, I only can refer back to their constituents: If these lawmakers are doing a poor job, their constituents have it within their power to boot them out; if the constituents are happy with their lawmakers’ performance, they are entitled to keep them on the job.

Of course, we don’t hear much from the nation’s Republican in Chief, the president of the United States, about term limits. He’s too busy “making America great again” and fighting for The Wall. He can’t be bothered with anything as mundane and pedestrian as establishing limits for the amount of time lawmakers can serve.

But where are the GOP fire starters? Have they lost their interest? Or their nerve?

I’m fine with the idea remaining dormant. Just wondering whether it’s died a much-needed death.

Term limits for congressional leaders? Why not?

I dislike the idea of term limits for members of Congress.

However, the idea of imposing such limits on congressional leaders is another matter. To that end, the next speaker of the House of Representatives is on to something constructive.

Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democratic caucus, has agreed to serve only two terms as speaker once she takes the gavel in January. She is set to favor a vote among congressional Democrats to impose similar limits on committee chairs, following the lead set by their Republican colleagues.

Pelosi getting push back

I like the notion of imposing those limits on leadership, despite my aversion to mandatory limits on the number of terms House members can serve on Capitol Hill. I have said all along that we already have limits on terms; they occur in the House every two years and every six years for senators. The 2018 midterm election demonstrated quite vividly the power of the electorate to give incumbents the boot.

Congressional leaders, though, aren’t necessarily beholden to the voters for the power they obtain in the halls of Congress. They are beholden to their fellow lawmakers.

Why not enact mandatory regular changes in committee chairmanships — as well as the speaker of the House?

It’s a good call from the new speaker.

Balance of power shifting in Texas delegation

Here’s a thought or two to consider, according to the Texas Tribune.

Texans who have occupied a lot of chairmanships in the U.S. House of Representatives might be set to bail on the House in the wake of the newfound status as the minority party in the lower congressional chamber.

Buried in the Tribune story analyzing that development is a mention of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, who might “make the upcoming term his last.”

That’s according to “many Republican operatives” on Capitol Hill, reports the Tribune.

Read the story here

Thornberry won’t be able to serve as “ranking minority member” of Armed Services; GOP rules mandate that he is term-limited out of that rank. So he’ll become just one of the gang of GOP members serving on the panel.

I have a special “bond” of sorts with Thornberry. He took office in the House in early January 1995, in the same week I reported for duty as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I covered his congressional career regularly until I left the paper in August 2012. He and I developed a good professional relationship.

I rarely agree with his voting record while representing the sprawling 13th Congressional District, although my position at the newspaper required me to write editorials supporting him, given the paper’s longstanding conservative editorial policy.

And, to be fair, Thornberry has been pilloried unfairly over his more than two decades in office because of the term limits issue. He was elected in 1994 as part of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” team of GOP insurgents. The CWA called for term limits for members of Congress. Thornberry never pledged to limit his own service to three consecutive terms, but he did vote to approve it when the House considered it.

He took office in 1995. It’s now 2018. Twenty-three years after becoming a freshman member of the House, Mac Thornberry is about to become a former chairman of a key congressional committee. The Republican majority is set to become the GOP minority. That, according to the Texas Tribune, might be enough to send Thornberry packing and returning to the Texas Panhandle in 2021.

Yep, elections do have consequences. We’re about to see one of those consequences occur on the new day that is about to dawn over Capitol Hill.