Tag Archives: term limits

Senators exhibit wear and tear

Recent episodes involving two prominent U.S. senators have thrust me into a serious quandary.

I do not believe in term limits for members of Congress, but I do believe that those members should exercise proper judgment when it becomes apparent — if not obvious — that they are unable to fulfill all the complicated aspects of their job.

Perhaps you have seen the recent video of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell freezing, unable to answer a question about his re-election plans in 2026. It is the second such episode we have seen of the Kentucky senator in recent weeks.

Then we have Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California missing several months because she was battling shingles and assorted other ailments. She has returned to her post, but she clearly — according to observers — is nowhere near at the top of her game.

Feinstein 90 years of age; McConnell is 81.

You hear it said in recent times about the need for age limits for senators and House members. Not necessary, any more than slapping term limits on these individuals. Nor is it necessary for the presidency, which does have a two-term limit for anyone elected to that office. I remain somewhat conflicted about whether we need term limits for the presidency.

Over the course of history of our Congress and our presidency we have seen multiple examples of individuals who have stayed in office for far too long. Perhaps the most prominent among them is Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the senator who served as a Democrat, an independent and a Republican. At the end of his lengthy stint in office, Thurmond was hardly able to communicate, let alone speak cogently about public policy.

There comes a time when all of us should realize when we no longer have the snap required to do our jobs. When you are an elected official representing the interests of millions of other people, such self-awareness becomes even more critical. You must have all your faculties and must be in full command of your wits to make decisions based on (a) your own principles or (b) the will of those you represent.

It looks to me that Sens. McConnell and Feinstein — two of the Senate’s heaviest hitters — are no longer able to fulfill the obligations of their high offices.

Therein lies a stern — but essential — lesson for people in public life at all levels of government.

Still ‘no!’ on term limits

With all the back and forth about political corruption and calls from prominent pols to enact term limits on members of Congress … my position on that matter remains fundamentally unchanged.

We don’t need mandated term limits for politicians who run for Congress. Indeed, we already have them. They occur every two years for House members and every six years for U.S. senators. They are elections.

I also want to disabuse you of the myth that Congress is overrun by longtime House members and senators who have been in office since The Flood. A Congressional Quarterly study done years ago pointed to a healthy turnover of politicians serving in Congress. The study showed that a tiny minority of lawmakers had been in office for more than, say, three or four terms.

As a practical matter, getting Congress to approve a constitutional amendment mandating term limits is problematic, to be sure. That is what it would take for such a proposal to become law. We have our share of pols who say they favor term limits, then they run for re-election to their umpteenth term. Some of them do so successfully; some do not.

There you have it. Term limits at work in Congress.

I once harbored the notion that we should repeal the 21st Amendment limit presidents to two terms. Enacted in 1951, the amendment was meant to prevent presidents from seeking more than two terms after President Roosevelt was elected to office four times. He died just a few weeks after taking office for his fourth term.

The office does take its toll on the occupant, as FDR’s demise — in his mid-60s — demonstrated. Therefore, keep the 21st Amendment on the books.

Members of Congress, though, do not need to be ordered out of office. The voters will have their say if enough of them think their congressman or woman is doing a lousy job.


What’s so wrong with ‘career politicians’?

You’ve heard it said millions of times, that someone is unfit for public office because he or she is a “career politician.”

I want to speak in favor of those who choose politics for a living, those who select public service as a career goal. I’ve never quite understood why these “career politicians” so often are held up as figures to be ridiculed, denigrated, reduced to four-letter words.

I am not a Pollyanna about this stuff, mind you. I’ve been watching career pols do their jobs for a long time. I spent nearly 37 years in the journalism trenches reporting and commenting on their activities. Some of them were, um, less than noble. I concede that point with no hesitation.

I’ve watched a few of them up close attain national stature. The meanest of them no doubt was the late Jack Brooks, the Democratic congressman from the Golden Triangle of Texas. He used to refer to himself as Sweet Old Brooks. Yep, he was an SOB, but he was “our SOB,” or so the saying went in Beaumont, Port Arthur and throughout Brooks’s congressional district.

Here’s the thing about Brooks: He got things done for his district. His constituents re-elected him many times because his staff did a good job of listening to people’s needs, concerns, gripes.

Career pols comprise a shrinking portion of Congress these days. Voters have expressed themselves with their ballots, turning away politicians who perhaps overstay their welcome. They bring in newcomers. In this current climate, many of the newbies see themselves as media stars, pushing their way into view of TV cameras. I cannot predict how they will wear over time.

I am not going to dismiss them immediately as flashes in the pan, although I am quite willing to make an exception to that rule: e.g., GOP U.S. Rep. George Santos of New York, the serial liar who needs to get the boot at the next election.

All told, though, I welcome career politicians. Someone has to do this job. Those who are willing and able to make public service a career and are willing to serve honorably, well … may they continue in their chosen field.


If I were King of the World …

First, I need to stipulate that I never have aspired to be King of the World, but if somehow were it to happen, there are a few things I would change about the current political climate.

For starters:

  • I would limit the U.S. president to a single six-year term, kind of like what they do in Mexico. Presidents there run for a single term and then they’re gone.

What is the advantage here? The president doesn’t campaign for re-election, for starters, and he or she then gets to concentrate solely on legislative agendas.

Too often presidents take office at the start of their first term and begin making speeches aimed appealing to voting blocs that would favor them in a run for their second term. It’s a fairly bipartisan affliction, so my friends on the left can accuse me all they want of offering a “both sides do it” escape clause. Too bad. I just happen to believe it’s true.

I offer this change while reminding readers of this blog that I oppose term limits already. I subscribe to the notion that elections serve as “term limits” if voters believe the officeholder doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.

  • Furthermore, I would like to see terms of House members extended from two years to three or maybe four years. That, too, removes the need for House members to begin their re-election quest immediately upon taking office.

A congressman once told me that he had to dedicate a certain number of hours every week to campaign fundraising, which took time away from research and legislating. It was an unwritten rule, he said, but one that a congressman or woman dare not ignore if he or she wanted to serve beyond that single term.

I wouldn’t trifle with the length of U.S. Senate terms. No need to extend them beyond the six years to which we elect them. Besides, doing so might fill a senator with a notion that since he or she is elected to serve longer than the president that he or she is more important than the commander in chief. We’ve got too many senatorial grandstanders already.

None of this is likely to happen. I am just venting over what I see is serious damage to the political fabric.

Of course, none of this answers the need to stop elected certifiable dumbasses to high public office. We’ll have to deal seriously with that matter later.


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.


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.


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.