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Congressional Term Limits
Term Limits for Congress

The Constitution does not say how many terms a representative can hold the position. One could imply, however, that only 1 term is allowed (2 yr rep, 6 yr senator). As such, I believe the states can implement term limits at their level. They only have to pass a state Constitutional Amendment that limits federal office terms to 2 terms (total of 4 yrs for reps, 12 yrs for senators, for example). I suggest that the amendment say that the candidate;s name cannot be put on the ballot when the term limit is reached.  Write in votes could be allowed so that we can possibly re-elect those few Congress Critters that are good. Since the feds don't have jurisdiction over this, the states could successfully do term limits.  Of course, SCOTUS has a different view on this.

Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995), is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court ruled that states cannot impose qualifications for prospective members of the U.S. Congress stricter than those the Constitution specifies.  The decision invalidated 23 states' Congressional term limit provisions.

As I previously stated, one can make the argument that the wording of the Constitution can be interpreted as Congress members can be elected for only ONE term.

U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton

The year was 1995, and the case was U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton. With assistance from USTL (US Term Limits), the citizens of 23 states had just passed laws putting term limits on their members of Congress.  That meant just under half of all congressmen were term-limited, and Congress would soon be forced to propose a term limits amendment applying to everyone.

But it was not to be. A self-interested politician in Arkansas and his donors made a court challenge to void that state’s law.  Others followed. After the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against us, we took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

SCOTUS opined that since the Constitution sets forth the criteria that determines the requirements for Senators and Congressional Representatives, only the Constitution can limit the terms of Congress members.

The Court decided, in a 5-4 split decision, that citizens are not allowed to term limit their own members of Congress using state laws.  They threw out 23 states’ term limits laws in one day.  Justice Scalia disagreed, ruling for term limits as part of the dissenting minority.

In his majority opinion, Justice Stevens noted that allowing the states to impose term limits would result in "a patchwork of state qualifications" for members of the U.S. Congress, a situation he suggested would be inconsistent with "the uniformity and national character that the framers sought to ensure." In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that state-specific term limits would jeopardize the "relationship between the people of the Nation and their National Government." Furthermore, he stated that the states could not impose congressional term limits because the Constitution simply did not grant them the power to do so.

I believe this is defective reasoning because the Constitution effectively gives the power to the States for matters of elections and the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution limit the power of the federal government, the powers not enumerated in the Constitution belong to the States and the People.  This issue should be brought up again to SCOTUS.

This was without doubt a low point for term limits.  The Court seemed to have shut down every realistic avenue to fight careerism in Washington.

But hidden in their decision was a silver lining: “State imposition of term limits for Congressional service would effect such a fundamental change in the constitutional framework that it must come through a constitutional amendment properly passed under the procedures set forth in Article V.”

Did you catch that? While they had closed the door to term-limiting Congress with state laws, they had opened another by saying it can be done through amendment to the Constitution.  That’s the strategy USTL is pursuing today.

More information can be found here: Why No Term Limits for Congress?



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