On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) chaired a hearing on the merits of congressional term limits.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Cruz has been a longtime proponent of imposing term limits on legislators.
Cruz opened the hearing with a statement, in which he said, “To effectively ‘drain the swamp,’ and end the phenomenon of career politicians, it is long past time to enact term limits for Congress.”
“I am the author of a constitutional amendment that would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and would limit members of the House of Representatives to three two-year terms.”
Cruz announced his term limits legislation in January of this year.
The senator cited a 2018 McLaughlin and Associates poll, which, Cruz continued, “found that 82 percent of Americans support term limits for Congress, including 89 percent of Republicans, but also 76 percent of Democrats support term limits, 83 percent of independents support term limits, 72 percent of Hispanics support term limits and 70 percent of African Americans support term limits.”
“Indeed the one group it seems in America that doesn’t support term limits are career politicians here in Washington. Everybody else recognizes the problem.”
After opening the hearing, Cruz recognized Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to make a statement of her own, in which she voiced her opposition to the policy.
“In my view, the most effective term limits are elections, and the most knowledgeable term limiters are voters.”
Hirono emphasized “We should be working to ensure more Americans are able to vote by making voting easier in the United States, not harder, by making voter registration as simple as possible, by stopping unnecessary and discriminatory purging of voter rolls, [and] by making it easier to vote early or allow them to vote by mail.”
The first witness was the Honorable Jim DeMint, former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, former president of the Heritage Foundation, and current chairman of the Conservative Policy Institute.
“It’s extremely gracious of you to invite me today, especially considering I’m going to spend my time advocating for your unemployment. It’s nothing personal, I promise,” said DeMint as he smiled at the committee.
He continued, “In Washington, seniority is closely associated with power.”
“The power that has convened here in Washington D.C. from all over the world is here because of the concentration of political power, now we have the concentration of economic power, the concentration of media power, and all of that really comes back to the real powers in the seniority within these walls.”
“We can’t fix it with one fell swoop, but we can sure break up a lot of it and change the incentives in a hurry,” DeMint argued.
Professor Lynda W. Powell, a political science professor at the University of Rochester, presented her findings from various academic studies and writings she’d conducted on term limits.
Powell cited her findings from studying the effects of legislative term limits that were enacted between 1990-1995 in 21 states.
She argued that term limits would not solve the issue of career politicians remaining in office for too long. “The legislative careerism that is curtailed by term limits was widely expected to alter the types of individuals who sought and won office. Notably, there is no support for term limits significantly increasing the proportion of citizen legislators rather than career-oriented politicians.”
Powell continued, stating that, “Term limits were similarly expected to bring in fresh faces with new ideas, however there were no differences in demographic composition between term-limited newcomers and other newcomers.”
Cruz’s legislation would not be retroactive, meaning that his proposed amendment would not disqualify members currently in office from running again even if their current tenure exceeds the limitations being proposed.
If ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures, the limits would only be imposed on legislators going forward.
McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.