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Term Limits: Don't count on lawmakers to cut their own throats

Term Limits: Don't count on lawmakers to cut their own throats

January 7th, 2017 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the need for terms limits for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

A number of states have passed term limits for those elected to their legislatures or statewide office. And they are free to do so.

But federal is different. Since the Constitution governs those positions, it would require an amendment to make term limits a reality in the House and Senate, just as it did to limit presidents to two terms in office.

And there's the problem.

There are only two ways the Constitution can be amended. Two-thirds of the state legislatures can call a national convention for the purpose of considering an amendment. This has never been done and is fraught with a variety of legal questions that have yet to be settled.

The second method—and every amendment so far has come about this way—is for both houses to approve an amendment by a two-thirds majority and send it to the states for ratification.

In short, to get federal term limits you are asking the foxes to limit their access to the hen house.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, along with Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, proposed a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on the House and Senate.

Senators would serve two terms at most, while House members would be limited to two three-year terms.

Some critics have said the proposal exempts sitting members of Congress. That's pretty much but not quite so. The clock would not start until the amendment is ratified, so senators could still serve two more terms and representatives six more years.

According to most polls, Americans firmly back term limits for Congress. But that doesn't mean members of Congress will vote to put themselves out of office, even if the prospect is quite a few years down the road.

In our view, term limits are a good idea. But we don't hold much hope for this proposal. President-elect Donald Trump made a lot of noise about "draining the swamp," but lawmakers from both parties are pretty comfortable in those murky waters.

If voters are serious about real change, they are going to have to make it happen at the polls.

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