Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republican senators have re-introduced an amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would cap the number of terms a member of Congress can legally serve.
The proposed amendment would limit senators to two six-year terms and member of the House to three two-year terms (pdf).
“The rise of political careerism in today’s Congress is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended for our federal governing bodies. I have long called for this solution for the brokenness of Washington, D.C., and I will continue fighting to hold career politicians accountable. As I have done in the past, I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification,” Cruz said in a statement.
Cruz has been a strong advocate for congressional term limits, hoping that it could be a solution to provide more oversight and accountability for those on Capitol Hill.
“Every year, Congress spends billions of dollars on giveaways for the well-connected: Washington insiders get taxpayer money and members of Congress get re-elected, all while the system fails the American people,” the Texas senator said.
“It’s no wonder that the vast majority of Americans from every political stripe—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—overwhelmingly support congressional term limits.”
This is the third time Cruz has introduced a constitutional amendment to impose term limits. In 2017, Cruz and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) introduced a similar amendment. Then in 2019, Cruz and then-Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) revisited the issue again.
In 2016, Cruz and DeSantis argued in an editorial published in The Washington Post that term limits were necessary to “drain the swamp.” The two lawmakers argued that although America’s founding fathers declines to include term limits in the Constitution, they had warned about the creation of a “permanent political class” being “enmeshed within American society.”
They said that term limits could mean more changes in Washington and a push to “[overcome] the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.”
Other members who have joined Cruz in pushing the 2021 amendment proposal are Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
Casey Burgat, senior governance fellow at the R Street Institute, in 2019 argued before a Senate committee the downsides of capping the number of terms lawmakers can serve. Burgat said mandating experienced members of Congress to leave chamber would “decrease Congress’ capacity to do its job in our system of government.”
“Even the most seasoned, experienced lawmakers struggle to craft effective policies and often cannot fully anticipate the unintended consequences of each vote they take. Still, we need our most effective lawmakers to stay in Congress,” Burgat argued.
He also said, citing studies, that when lawmakers no longer need to worry about an election, they are “actually less—not more—concerned with the needs of their constituents and individual districts.”
“Term limits have also been shown to decrease lawmakers’ efforts to develop and advance policies, reduce their willingness to show up for roll-call votes and discourage creation of the bipartisan coalitions and relationships within the chamber that are often projected by term limit supporters,” Burgat said.
Meanwhile, Nick Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, argued that the “incumbent advantage” of office-holders “creates barriers to entry for everyday Americans without the connections to fund a campaign.”
“Elections may in theory be capable of dethroning incumbents, but that isn’t how it works in the real world. Congressional incumbents have a 98 percent re-election rate,” Tomboulides said during the same Senate committee hearing.
“So term limits is a check on arrogance, it is a check on incumbency and it is a check on power. It is a way to restore political courage while bringing fresh faces and ideas to Washington,” he argued.