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.