Saturday, February 11, 2012

How will term limits fare in the upcoming presidential election?

While term limits have to be by the Congress, such is a difficult task and presidential sponsorship
-- or opposition – could be a decisive factor. The current president is a foe of the reform, but what of his potential successors?

Newt Gingrich – While Gingrich famously used the popular reform to win a House Republican majority in 1994, he played the central role in derailing them once in power. Today, he openly opposes them. See my full blog post on Newt here.

Mitt Romney – The former Massachusetts governor of Congressional term limits. To date, he has not taken any specific action on their behalf, but if the issue came to a vote during his presidency, one would expect he would at least aid the effort rhetorically.

“I would love to see term limits for congressmen and senators,” the former Massachusetts governor said earlier this month. “We have one for the president. It’s a good idea.”

Ron Paul – Ron Paul has always spoke positively about term limits and, as he points out, has voted for them at every opportunity. In fact, he was a pioneer on the issue, submitting a Congressional term limits bill in the 1980s prior to the rise of the modern term limits movement in the early 1990s. Today, however, the issue has taken a back seat. Rep. Paul is not a cosponsor of Rep. David Schweikert’s term limits amendment currently bill in the House. See my full blog post on Ron Paul here.

Rick Santorum – I had the opportunity to ask Rick Santorum about Congressional term limits at the Florida Republican Party straw poll and debate in Orlando last September. His face lit up. He said, paraphrasing, that “I was the only person on that stage tonight that can say he has actually imposed term limits,” referring to his efforts in his first term to impose 6-year term limits on Senate committee chairs.

He continues to boast about this. In January, he told CNN that “I was a big reformer in the House and the Senate… what we did in the Senate with just reforming the Senate itself and putting term limits in place. I mean, term limits is a big reform."

Gary Johnson – It is worth mentioning former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Although he has dropped out of the Republican primary race, he is likely to be the nominee of the Libertarian Party and hence may appear on most or all the state ballots in the general election. Johnson is a vocal proponent of Congressional term limits and the only candidate to sign (when he was still running as a Republican) the U.S. Term Limits Presidential Pledge. This pledge commits the signer to actively pursue the issue as president.

While a position on term limits is certainly not the sole criterion in choosing a president, it nonetheless should be part of the mix. With amendment bills in both houses and a pledge and other projects under way to advance them, the issue is likely to hit big during the next administration. Keep that in mind at the ballot box.