Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TERM LIMITS FOR ALL amendment introduced!

It's official. Sen. Jim DeMint has introduced a bill to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the terms of the U.S. Congress.

If the proposal becomes law, Senators will be limited to two terms (12 years) and Representatives will be limited to three (six years). The text of the bill and amendment can be found here.

The amendment is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). As an amendment to the Constitution, it would require a two-thirds majority vote approval in the House and Senate and must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

"Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians," said Senator DeMint. "As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buyoff special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork – in short, amassing their own power. I have come to realize that if we want to change the policies coming out of Congress, we must change the process itself. Over the last 20 years, Washington politicians have been reelected about 90% of the time because the system is heavily tilted in favor of incumbents. If we really want to put an end to business as usual, we’ve got to have new leaders coming to Washington instead of rearranging the deck chairs as the ship goes down.”

He's right. And now we have some work to do.

First, please call your Senator and ask him or her to become a cosponsor of this amendment. Second, please sign our on-line petition to show your support for Sen. DeMint's amendment. Third, send around the petition link to your friends and family and urge them to sign the petition. Fourth, write a letter to the editor announcing the bill and your support of it. Be sure to include how your Senators stand on the issue.

Our most recent polling shows 83% of Americans support term limits. Hence, this should be a done deal. But our system is broken. This amendment is a big step toward fixing it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Sen. DeMint to drop term limits bill!

Great news: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will soon be launching a Constitutional amendment bill to limit terms of the U.S. Congress!

I am often asked by reporters and talk radio hosts what it would take to achieve Congressional term limits. It is a big project and will take the right conditions to get the job done.

First, I say, we need the people on our side. Check.

Second, we need historically low approval ratings on Congress. Check.

Third, we need political leadership. Check?

Yes, it looks we finally have that too. The remarks below are excerpted from U.S. Senator Jim DeMint’s podcast of October 22, 2009. Senator DeMint, who voluntarily limited his tenure in the House of Representatives to three terms, is announcing the imminent launch of a bill to Constitutionally limit terms.

Take it away, Sen. DeMint:

"The longer I stay in Washington, the more I have come to realize that the problem in the federal government isn't just the people...it’s the process.

"The system itself is so much more powerful than either party or interest group, let alone one president or congressional leader. In Washington, the rules of the game are rigged—in favor of bigger government, higher taxes, more debt, and the time-honored system of political back-scratching of 'go along to get along.

"The fact is, party doesn’t matter when it comes to reform. If you want to change the policies, you have to change the process. That’s why in the next few weeks I will introduce a new constitutional amendment to limit members of the House of Representatives to three terms (which is six years), and members of the Senate to two terms (which is twelve years).

"As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork—in short, amassing their own power. Since all that power is going to disappear in a few years anyway, term-limited legislators will be far less likely to make compromises with the system.

"Opponents of term limits say that the nation needs wise and seasoned leaders to lead the nation through crises and find consensus on difficult issues. Well, that’s exactly what we’ve got now.... How do you think it’s working out for us? It wasn’t the People who gave us a 12-trillion dollar debt, trillion-dollar deficits, 100-trillion-dollar long term shortfall in Social Security and Medicare, the Wall Street and auto bailouts, and the health care takeover. It was those wise and seasoned leaders, who enjoy lives of privilege almost wholly immune from the consequences of their policy failures.

"Term limits are not enough, of course. I hope my amendment will eventually be ratified, and then followed by other structural reforms to make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. But term limits are a good start. Because if we really want reform, we all know it’s not enough just to change the congressmen—we have to change Congress itself."

The fourth thing we need to win is for grass roots activists to raise such a clamor that this bill cannot be ignored and Congress members are afraid to vote against it.

So please, right now, go to the U.S. Terms Limits website and sign the on-line petition reiterating Sen. DeMint's call for term limits. And send around the link to all your friends and associates of all political persuasions.

If not now, when?

After vet fiasco, Florida pol returns with new anti-term limit gimmick

Oh no, not again. Florida State Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) is back pitching a Constitutional amendment to weaken Florida’s popular and successful 8-year term limits law.

Bennett is not so deaf to the will of voters that he doesn’t recognize the popularity of the law he is attacking. It’s just that he doesn’t care. He knows he has to come up with some way to get around voter sentiment, so he has once again been rummaging around the bottom of the careerist politician garbage pail for ideas.

Last session, he tacked an anti-term limits amendment to a bill that would extend a popular property tax discount to a broader group of disabled veterans. He got jeers and laughs, but not the votes.

This session he is hawking a new gimmick to fire up support for incumbent entrenchment. His new offer you can’t refuse -- according to the Tampa Tribune’s Catherine Dolinski – is to extend 12-year term limits to city and county offices as well. Get it? That way, he can claim a vote for this bill is a vote for term limits!

Of course, citizens in all the counties and cities that worked so hard to collect the signatures for, not to mention all the voters that approved, all the existing local 8-year term limits referenda may object. But they weren’t going to support Bennett’s bill anyway. With this clever stroke, he aims to clinch the support of local term-limited incumbents throughout the state and many term limits supporters who may not be paying close enough attention.

Will it be enough? I doubt it. Such a proposal would have to go to the voters first, and the threshold for Constitutional amendments is 60%. We must be vigilant always, of course, but right now the only attention his new idea demands is a rolling of the eyes.

Schwarzenegger and those 'crazy' term limits

Term limits activism is empowering and often thrilling, but there are some repetitive aspects of it that just get downright tedious. Number one on the list is the phenomenon of the politician who runs for office calling for term limits, becomes part of the power structure, and then turns his or her back on term limits and the voters who love them.

Take California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Referring to former state Sen. Jack Scott, the governor recently opined that he “was termed out because we have these crazy term limits here in California and people that are that experienced like him then have to leave and move on.”

No. What’s crazy is thinking that out of 36.7 million people, only the elite political class of individuals are “experienced” enough to hold public office.

In 2003, as a candidate, Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “My campaign for governor is based on the concept that California's state government belongs to the people, not the career politicians. As we are now seeing with the state's budget crisis and anti-business policies, it is too easy for the politicians to become disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent. That is why I believe in citizen legislators and yes, even citizen governors. It is also why I am such a strong believer in term limits.”

Funny what a few years in public office does to a politician. In 2008, Schwarzenegger turned against term limits and sided with the political establishment when he endorsed Proposition 93, a ballot measure that, had it not been defeated, would have weakened term limits.

What logic is there in rewarding the very legislators that are leading the state to the brink by extending their terms to allow them to 'serve' more?

In fact, logic requires that we move the opposite direction. California has the highest paid legislators in the country and they work all year 'round. The careerist impulse may have been tempered in California by term limits, but it is not enough. The perks of power are just too sweet for California pols who will clearly do anything to keep their cozy jobs.

Instead, we get claims that are truly crazy: thinking that the political establishment just needs more time to fix the very problems for which its own antics are so glaringly responsible.

Schwarzenegger knew better in 2003. The people of California know better in 2009. And they assuredly will defeat SCA 24—yet another proposed constitutional amendment to weaken term limits—in 2010.

(See my op-ed on this subject in the Oct. 31 edition of the L.A. Times.)