ST. GEORGE – A constitutional amendment proposed Tuesday would impose term limits on members of Congress if passed. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, would limit senators to two terms and representatives to three terms.
“D.C. is broken,” Cruz said in a press release Tuesday. “The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people. It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.”
One of the proposed amendment’s co-sponsors is Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Lee spoke in favor of term limits during a speech to the Heritage Foundation in October. During the speech, he said voters shouldn’t be swayed by arguments incumbents make about losing power and influence they’ve gained for their state while serving in Congress over multiple terms.
Whenever you see a member of Congress come back and tell his or her constituents, ‘Look I know we’re all citizens in a free republic and that means you can vote for whomever you want, but given the amount of seniority and authority that I’ve accrued during my time in this or that body of Congress, you should know that if you don’t vote for me you will lose money and power and influence.’
It’s attaching a very high price tag to our most fundamental of rights, our right to vote.
Lee went on the say he favors a 12-year limit for both houses of Congress. Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee’s Office, told the Deseret News that the senator will be introducing his own version of term limits legislation in the near future.
A majority of Utahns favor term limits, according to poll results released by Utah Policy in October. According to the results, 85 percent of Utahns want term limits for state-level offices and the Legislature, while 88 percent want limits for Utah’s congressional delegation.
“Technically, there are term limits for legislators,” Bryan Schott, Utah Policy’s managing editor, wrote. “Voters get to voice their opinion at the polls every two, four or six years, depending on the office. In practice, however, most term limits are self-enforced through retirement, both in the federal or state level.”
The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and spread across 619 likely voters. It has a plus-or-minus margin for error of 3.98 percent.
Nationally, according to Rasmussen poll results also released in October, 74 percent of Americans also favor term limits on Congress.
This poll was spread across 1,000 likely voters and has a plus-or-minus margin of error of 3 percent.
When discussed in Utah, the idea of congressional term limits will likely have Sen. Orrin Hatch’s name attached to it at some point. Hatch is currently the longest-serving senator in Congress, having been voted into office since 1976.
He currently holds the position of President pro tempore of the Senate, which places him third in line for the presidency.
“Sen. Hatch has accumulated three of the most valuable commodities in D.C.: seniority, a history of bipartisan success and a great title,” Kirk Jowers, head of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, told the Deseret News when Hatch was made the president pro tempore in January 2015.
Since Hatch has served seven terms, there have been calls for him to consider not running again. However, he announced in November that he may be considering running for an eighth term, noting that others are asking him to run again.
As for the idea of term limits, Hatch’s communications director, J.P. Freire, said the the voters decide when it’s time to “term-limit” their representatives and that Hatch is dealing with more important matters than the proposed legislation which isn’t likely to survive Congress.
“The Constitution gives voters the power to term-limit their representatives at each election, and Senator Hatch trusts the judgment of American voters” Freire said. “Instead of engaging in the perennial Washington parlor game about term-limit legislation that everyone knows is dead on arrival, the Senator is focused on actually getting things done for Utahns like repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
While Hatch doesn’t support Cruz and Lee’s efforts to impose limit terms, they’ve found “rare” support from Utah’s Democratic Party.
“It’s a rare occasion when Utah Democrats find common ground with Tea Party conservative Ted Cruz, but we support Senator Cruz and Representative DeSantis’s bill in favor of term limits for members of Congress,” party chair Peter Corroon said in a statement. “We remind Senator Orrin Hatch that the people of Utah also support this idea. We thank him for his four decades of dedicated service and remind him that the people of Utah have specifically indicated their desire for him to not run for a record eighth term.”
Imposing term limits is the first step to reforming the government, DeSantis said in a press release.
“Eliminating the political elite and infusing Washington with new blood will restore the citizen legislature that our Founding Fathers envisioned,” he said. “Sen. Cruz has been instrumental in efforts to hold Congress accountable, and I look forward to working with him to implement term limits.”
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