Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) proposed a constitutional amendment that would create term limits for members of congress. The move is not surprising as the pair made their intent clear in a Washington Post op-ed.
While the move might have a profound impact on long ingrained power structures in Washington DC, it may be only a partial cure. A professional political class is only as bad as the people who populate that profession. Some think the move might create a greater incentive for congressional cooperation when legislators are faced with a fixed term limit with which to make any progress. Others claim the term limits may prevent congress from ever becoming a productive group of people who disagree on some things, but do what is best for the nation at the end of the day. Considering the complete lack of productivity from the last several congresses we’ve had, it seems like a cohesive legislature would be quite a bold request. The chart below, from a Washington Post article about the 113th congress, illustrates the point. Lastly, the hard fact is that it takes time to get good at any job and running our country is no exception. There is a real chance that limiting the amount of experience any person in congress would have could create a competence gap.
The proposal would limit Senators to two six-year terms and Representatives to three two-year terms. A twelve-year run for a Senator seems like it would be long enough to get some things done. Representatives go up for election every other year, so with campaigns taken into consideration, it would leave them with a little over three years to focus on governing.
If this amendment passed, it may or may not have the desired impact. With the consistent astroturfing and the continued flow of endless supplies of dark money into elections, the billionaire class and special interest groups would simply shuffle in more of the same problematic people who have little real interest in helping people.
Constitutional amendments have to be approved by three-fourths of the states, and the last one that was passed took over 200 years to be ratified. That last bit is true, but it’s cherry picking as most amendments take no more than three years to be ratified.
It is likely that this amendment will not go anywhere, but at this point we have little to lose. Congress has to improve.