Saturday, November 19, 2016

TIME FOR ACTION: Americans must rally behind Trump's term limits call

Seemingly overnight, Congressional term limits are back on the front-burner, with President-elect Donald Trump calling a Constitutional Amendment a priority for his first 100 days.

Trump has done his homework. In his call for Congressional term limits, he has cited the specific terms called for in the existing U.S. Term Limits amendment bills of three terms (six years) in the U.S. House and two (12 years) in the U.S. Senate. He knows there is a block of Congress members who have signed the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge to "cosponsor and vote for" such a bill.

In fact, that pool of committed support just grew larger on Election Day, when 13 new signers were elected to Congress. Right now, there are 48 signers elected to the House and Senate. The table has been set for a Trump to ring the dinner bell.

"We want to see new voices."
This pool of signers does not count those now coming out of the woodwork to support the new president's call. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke in favor of Congressional term limits over the past week as well as newly minted Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). In Khanna's words, "We need term limits and I’ll work across the aisle to impose these term limits."

Even President Obama weighed in in favor of the idea in the wake of Trump's announcement. Obama told reporters at the first post-election press conference that “I think we want to see new voices and new ideas emerge. That's part of the reason why I think term limits are a really useful thing.”

"We need term limits" -- Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) 
Polling on the issue continues to show super majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents support Congressional limits.

So, with two presidents calling for it, 48 Congress members pledged to push it, the House Speaker open to a vote and broad bipartisan support, what could go wrong? 

A lot actually. You can bet the permanent incumbency will fight back. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already declared that he is ready to fight to keep power.
Old guard is prepping for a fight.

"It will not be on the agenda in the Senate," Sen McConnell declared.

Nonetheless, the incoming president is not backing down.

“We’re going to put on term limits, which a lot of people aren’t happy about, but we’re putting on term limits,” Trump told 60 Minutes last Sunday. “We’re doing a lot of things to clean up the system.”

But he cannot do it alone. Citizens need to act right now to show support for Congressional term limits and ask their representatives to call for a vote.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"CONvention CONspiracy" losing its fearful power

In the animated movie Monsters Inc., the eponymous company was falling on hard times as it had become ever harder to terrify human children in a modern society. Yet, fear -- an energy source -- was how the firm generated its profits.

The opponents of the Term Limits Convention are running into the same problem.

Once considered a potent tool to thwart efforts to limits terms of Congress, the myth of the Convention Conspiracy -- or "CON CON" -- is losing its ability to scare voters, legislators and, presumably, children who do their homework.

The Conspiracy Conventioneers claim that nefarious forces -- including groups like U.S. Term Limits -- are plotting to utilize an Article V amendment convention to rewrite or abolish the Constitution.

To anyone who has examined the issue, the CON CON is ridiculous on its face and more and more people are examining it. In the state capitols, where the term limits convention bills are being debated, we find that few really believe the CON CON story.

Under Article V, the Founders provided two methods for amending the Constitution.  One is the Congressional method, under which the U.S. Congress can – with a two-thirds vote – propose a Constitutional amendment.  The Congress is under no limitations in what it proposes. Indeed, some 200 amendments are introduced to Congress every session. Few ever meet the high threshold required by Article V to qualify them as official proposals that can be sent to the states. Those that do pass muster have zero force or effect until three-quarters of the states ratify them. This has only happened 27 times in U.S. history and ten of those are the Bill of Rights, ratified immediately after the Constitution was adopted.

The second method is the convention route. It was added to satisfy those of the Founders such as Anti-Federalist George Mason of Virginia who were concerned the new Constitution gave too much power to the Federal Government. The states needed a way to amend the Constitution without relying on Congress. Hence, the convention route was added – the final draft largely written by Federalist James Madison – and approved unanimously at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

The Convention route gives a convention – called upon applications by two-thirds of the states – the same power as the Congress to propose amendments. It does not create any additional powers to enact, alter or abolish any law.  The convention is, as Article V states, a "convention for proposing amendments."

Unlike a session of Congress, conventions can be called for limited purposes. Indeed nearly all applications for Article V conventions have been applications for conventions to tackle specific issues.  Historically, there have been over 400 calls with at least one from every state.

Whether limitation to one issue is possible is the central fetish of the Conspiracy Conventioneers.  This is absurd.  If 34 states apply for a limited convention, a limited convention will be called. With delegates chosen for the limited convention and sent with instructions with a limited convention in mind, there is no reason to think that a convention would not be limited. Indeed, in spite of occasional grandstanding by politicians, conventions have historically stayed on subject, as have most hearings and other government meetings officially called for a specific purpose.

But the real safeguard lies with the states and with the people. Any amendment proposed by an Article V convention must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. That is 38 states, or at least 75 individual legislative chambers as most states (except Nebraska) have two.  To think that anything outrageous -- or even controversial -- can survive that gauntlet is quite fanciful. Indeed, we believe only immensely popular and bipartisan proposals like term limits or maybe a balanced budget amendment have a snowball's chance of meeting that threshold.

This does not mean we never hear about the Convention Conspiracy as we advocate for a term limits convention. But increasingly, the CON CON myth is used as cover for politicians and front groups who don't want to admit to voters they oppose term limits or a balanced budget amendment.  They would rather pretend they are standing up for citizens, rather than against them.

They know there are still good people who, having not yet investigated the CON CON, will quake as the term limits opponents share their ghostly tale.  However, there are less every day.

Just as in the movie, no one is a greater threat to the fear-mongers than someone who knows the truth -- and is not afraid.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Citizens calling for TERM LIMITS CONVENTION

Each election cycle, hundreds of Congressional challengers (and even an incumbent or two) sign the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge to sponsor and vote for a term limits amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And each national election day, a dozen or two new signatories are elected to Congress. We believe we are headed toward a critical mass that will one day secure a floor vote on this popular reform. 
But skeptics (including many term limits activists!) tell us Congress will never, ever vote out a term limits amendment. OK, maybe, but what if there were a way to pass a Constitutional amendment without the consent of Congress?
Well, there is.
Article V of the Constitution provides two ways to amend that document. The first is the traditional route through the Congress and then to the states for ratification. But the founders knew there would be times when Congress would refuse to act against its own interests even when an overwhelming majority of Americans demand it. Hence, they provided a way to bypass Congress.
If two-thirds (34) of the states call for a convention of states for the purpose or proposing an amendment on a specific subject, the amendment convention 'shall' be called. The amendment it produces would go back to the states -- not the Congress -- for ratification. 
It is now clear that the best and fastest way to impose term limits on Congress is through a term limits convention as authorized by Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
Hence, U.S. Term Limits is launching a massive nationwide campaign to convene it.
A single-amendment convention committed to specifically and exclusively imposing term limits will get bipartisan support. It will bypass the career politicians in Washington. It will allow average people like you and me to clean up corruption and careerism on Capitol Hill and reintroduce the regular rotation and competitive elections that the founders intended.
Convening an Article V convention will not be easy, however.  We’ll have to lobby the various states to support this historic idea. This will be a tough and costly fight. Sign the online petition here. Make a financial contribution here. When the bill is introduced in your state, U.S. Term Limits will alert you with the bill info and how you can help get it passed.
Let's hit the restart button on Congress and make history!
(You can follow the progress of the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and/or the new U.S. Term Limits blog.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Georgia's Bob Johnson: Term Limits NOW!

Congressional term limits have emerged as a key issue in another tight primary race, this one in Southeast Georgia where term limits supporter Dr. Bob Johnson is tangling with term limits opponent -- and 25-year political veteran -- Buddy Carter. The runoff election is July 22.

Georgia's District 1, which stretches from Savannah down the eastern Georgia coast to Florida, is a natural term limits battleground.

Incumbent Jack Kingston, who is running for the U.S. Senate, is a signatory of the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge. Over 175 Congressional candidates in 2014 have signed the pledge in which they commit, if elected, to cosponsor and vote for the existing Constitutional amendment bill limiting House reps to three terms and Senators to two. Just this last week, Kingston fulfilled the pledge and signed on to the bill. Kingston's opponent, David Perdue, is also a signer.

So the question is, will District 1 remain a safe one for term limits?

Former Army Ranger and cancer surgeon Bob Johnson says 'yes.'  He signed the U.S. Term Limits pledge and has been speaking about this issue at debates and to the media. He even enlarged an unsigned copy of the pledge and brought it to his opponent's office for a signature.

No dice. Georgia state senator Buddy Carter not only refuses to sign but has been explicitly opposing term limits as part of his campaign.

Then, last week, Johnson launched what he called the "Term Limits NOW!" tour across the district, travelling with U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel (full disclosure: that's me), speaking and holding rallies to draw attention to the subject. Rhetorically at least, no other issue distinguishes the campaigns more than this one.

If we are to achieve Congressional term limits, it will take efforts like that of Dr. Bob Johnson. The people are already on our side, the question is whether we can elect leaders to match.

(TOP: Dr. Bob Johnson answers voter questions at July 11 event in Brunswick, GA, in front of enlarged U.S. Term Limits pledge. ABOVE: U.S. Term Limits president Philip Blumel and other term limits supporters rally in Savannah.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Term limits may be Mississippi tie-breaker

Term limits may turn out to be the deciding issue in the Mississippi U.S. Senate primary race where standard issue professional politician Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is locked in a tight runoff with election reformer Chris McDaniel. Decision day is June 24.

Sen. Cochran didn’t know it, but he fired the opening salvo of this battle in February 2012 when he was one of the 75 percent of Senators to oppose  Sen. Jim DeMint’s Sense of the Senate amendment calling for Congressional term limits.  Just months later, Gallup published new polling data that shows 75 percent of Americans support Congressional term limits. Oops.

As McDaniel has said: “After spending decades in Washington, too many career politicians lose touch with the people who elect them.”  Indeed.

Even though Cochran slipped into the House in 1972 and the Senate in 1978 in competitive open-seat elections, he is an active opponent of term limits which would mandate open seat elections in every seat periodically.  Since his election to the Senate, he has faced largely nominal challengers or, as in 1990, no challenger at all.

Seemingly untouchable by voters like most incumbents, he has established mutually beneficial relationships with special interests.  Sen. Cochran is ranking member and former chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee.  It is not surprising that Sen. Cochran’s largest contributor is the agriculture industry and, specifically, he is the top recipient of contributions from the following agriculture industry subsectors: crop production, agricultural services, poultry, dairy, forestry products and sugar cane and beets.

It is hardly a coincidence either that Sen. Cochran has been a Senate champion of the federal sugar program, subsidies for ethanol and other corporate welfare programs. He has a similar symbiotic relationship with the defense industry.

According to, after agriculture, his largest contributors have been leadership PACs (that is, other politicians vying for votes and support), law firms, lobbyists and defense firms.

In his defense, Sen. Cochran boasts that he brings Federal money home to Mississippi. And he does.  The problem is nearly every other senator is bragging about the same thing.  The result, as Chris McDaniel says, is “after too long, career politicians in Washington have allowed our national debt to grow out of control.” In his long tenure, Sen. Cochran has voted to raise the debt ceiling some two dozen times.

That is how the system works and Sen. Thad Cochran is a product and defender of that system.
Will Chris McDaniel be different after a couple of decades in office?   We are unlikely to find out. McDaniel has vowed to serve only two terms, as would be required under the Congressional term limits bill currently introduced in the Senate by Sens. David Vitter and Rand Paul.
More importantly, McDaniel is one of over 160 (so far) Congressional candidates to sign the U.S. Term Limits pledge in which candidates promise to “cosponsor and vote for” the Congressional term limits bill.
As Sen. Cochran is reaching out to Democrats and independents to save him on June 24, McDaniel is pressing the term limits card.  Gallup tells us that these Democrats and independents favor term limits by large majorities, just like his fellow Republicans. McDaniel is letting them know via a new TV ad that term limits are his priority. Why should they make the effort to cross party lines and vote in the GOP primary?
My guess is they won't.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Arkansas: The most deceitful ballot title EVER?

As chronicled in this blog, politicians will go to great lengths to thwart voter-approved term limits. They lose by one scheme, they try another.  In Arkansas they are trying several simultaneously and topping it off with the most dishonest ballot title, well, ever.

The plan is to hide a provision in a long so-called ethics bill that would double Arkansas state term limits from six to 16 years in the House and eight to 16 years in the Senate with an overall term limit of 16 years. This change is being presented as minor as, after all, isn't the current overall limit only 14 years?  This deceptive proposal will appear on the November 2014 ballot.

That is bad enough. But now this, announced last week from the Arkansas Secretary of State:

HJR 1009

Popular Name

An amendment regulating contributions to candidates for state or local office, barring gifts from lobbyists to certain state officials, providing for setting salaries of certain state officials and setting term limits for members of the general assembly. 

Setting term limits for members of the general assembly? What?  Eight-year term limits were set by voters in 1992 and reaffirmed by them in 2004. This amendment weakens them, doubles them, lengthens them to 16, whatever, but it does not set them.

Read that wording again. Do you believe in "setting term limits for the general assembly?" I do! More importantly, all term limits supporters in Arkansas and everywhere else support "setting term limits for members of the general assembly."

That is what the politicians are banking on. They know Arkansans support term limits, so they have crafted language that will trick voters into voting yes. This is a scam, perhaps the most deceitful ever.

It is likely this scam title will have a date in court before a date with the voters. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The emerging 16-year term limit scam

Since the first state term limits were approved by voters in 1990, professional and wannabe professional politicians have tried to overturn them. This opposition has come in progressively devious waves.

The first and most successful counterattacks were legal and several referenda were shot down in courts or in a few cases by legislative action. Examples include Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts,Wyoming and Illinois. The biggest legal victory of the anti-term limits forces was the U.S. Supreme Court's split (5-4) U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton decision in 1995 which nullified the Congressional term limits laws passed by 21 states.

But the remaining 15 state term limits laws are now cast in stone having passed their legal tests. In these states, politicians have to ask voters -- not courts or legislatures -- to abolish or weaken the popular limits at the ballot box. This has proved much more difficult than finding friendly judges.

The first reactionary response was for simple abolition of the limits. As the limits starting taking effect, there was a wave of legislation launched in the term limits states to repeal them. This went nowhere, as voters learned to love term limits more over time, not less.

Next there was a wave of tricky referenda by politicians who "support" term limits but would like to see them "improved" by making them weaker, usually 12 years. Typically, these were written in a way to suggest that the referenda were establishing limits, as if for the first time, to trick a margin of voters into believing the referenda were pro-term limits! This too went nowhere, but it required mobilization by term limits activists to make sure the voters weren't being fooled. Examples include Arkansas, Montana, Maine and California.

This year, politicians in Arkansas, Missouri and Montana are launching the most deceitful strategy yet to free themselves from voter-approved term limits.

Professional politics is an industry. Like other industries, the participants -- parties, politicians, special interests -- compete, often fiercely. But as members of the same industry, they also have common incentives and interests. In the oil industry, for example, the companies compete in the marketplace, surely, but they still have common interests which unite them. Hence they have industry organizations with lobbyists to press their common demands and interests.

Politicians are no different. They compete at the ballot box. But when the dust settles, they talk, they share ideas, they plot, they scheme, they connive... You know.

Hence a new wave of anti-term limits bills are appearing in several states simultaneously with the most outrageous strategy yet. In states with 8-year term limits, politicians are suggesting that 8 years in each house is really a 16-year limit. So, it would be just a small tweak make the 16-year limit official, with the small alteration that politicians could 'spend' their 16 years in either house.

Of course, what this really means is a comfy 16-year stint in one house, as all politicians know the great majority of  reps cannot successfully make the jump to the other. Getting re-elected to one's own seat, on the other hand, is nearly automatic.

This is a scam. A version of it made it to the ballot in Arkansas and passed at least one house in Missouri and Montana last year. In Arkansas, they added additional cover, as they hid this teeny-weeny tweak inside an ethics bill of mild, pleasant-sounding restrictions on lobbyist gifts and contributions. Don't be surprised to see copycats pick up the 'ethics bill' gimmick as well.

So 2014 is the year of the 16-year term limits scam.

Nationwide, polls show the voters' support for term limits has not dimmed over time. The politicians can only succeed though obfuscation and deceit. That places a new burden on us as citizens to get the word out, but we have one big advantage: the simple power of the truth.