By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
In the early '90s the Republican march to majority included the idea that it was time to impose term limits on members of the U.S. House and Senate. A part of the Contract with America, term limits died thanks in part to a disagreement among its supporters over just what those terms should be.
It also didn't help the cause that those who followed Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey as leaders of the House GOP determined that voluntarily ceding power to other people might not be the most prudent of ideas, especially after the party had spent 40 years in the political wilderness.
Tuesday a group of U.S. Senators, led by South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, attempted to bring the issue back to life. DeMint, along with co-sponsors Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas, introduced a constitutional amendment that would apply term limits to all members of Congress. Under their plan, members of the House of Representatives would be limited to three consecutive two-year terms in office and Senators to two, six-year terms.
"Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians," DeMint said in a release. "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."
Arguing that the only way to change the policies coming out of Washington is to change the process, DeMint and the others have proposed a most radical step, one that strikes directly at the heart of the power structure inside the national capital but one that is consistent with the voter outrage directed at the big-spending, grow the government initiatives coming out of the White House and the Reid-Pelosi Congress.
"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," DeMint said.
As a constitutional amendment, the DeMint-led initiative would need to be approved by two-thirds of the U.S. House and by an identical percentage of senators before being sent to the states for ratification, where three-quarters would have to approve before it could become part of the U.S. Constitution.