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Topics: House of Representatives

House members unite on new, bipartisan term limits proposal

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Congress,Mark Tapscott,House of Representatives

Limiting how many terms members of Congress can serve has long been among the most popular proposals with American voters, but opposition from entrenched incumbents in both parties has prevented adoption of the idea in law.

That may be about to change, thanks to a new effort by a Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., and Rep. Beto O'Roarke, D-Texas.

Writing in Wednesday's edition of Redstate.org, the two congressmen say public exasperation with the seeming inability of Washington leaders to make concrete progress in solving the nation's many serious problems is at all-time high, and that makes it time for their new approach to the term limits issue.

"The two of us, freshman members from different parties with divergent views on many issues, have come together because we believe a healthy debate is warranted on how we best serve the American people and whether, in a time of enormous powers of incumbency and multi-million dollar campaigns for Congress, we can be better public servants and curb the corrupting influence of money and power by limiting a member's term in office.

"Public opinion in favor of term limits for members of Congress is unquestionable. A Gallup poll released this past January reflects the same trend seen year after year from countless reputable research firms. Overall, 75 percent of American adults responding to the survey were in favor of implementing term limits and the support is unanimous across party lines," Bridenstine and O'Roarke wrote.

The Bridenstine-O'Roarke proposal is a constitutional amendment that doesn't establish a specific cap on how many terms a senator or representative could serve, but simply gives Congress the legislative authority to do so.

"The reason for this structure is that by taking away the details from the amendment process, the likelihood of passage increases. We believe that even members who are philosophically opposed to term limits would support a constitutional amendment providing the legislative branch with the ability to debate and vote on the issue," the two congressmen explain.

Previous proposals have provided specific limits on how many terms a member of Congress could serve, such as three for those in the House of Representatives and two for senators.

The last time Congress seriously considered the issue was in following the 1995 Republican "Contract with America," which promised to adopt term limits. The issue died, however, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., scheduled two competing versions for floor votes.

Gingrich's ploy split the pro-term limits forces, thus preventing either proposal from receiving sufficient votes.

Bridenstine and O'Roarke point to another major obstacle they hope to overcome with their proposal, the fear of long-serving incumbents that they will have to leave Congress "prematurely" if a term limits law is approved.

"Previous term limit efforts have also failed because the only people who can begin the process to impose term limits are those who will be most affected — incumbent members of Congress. By voting in favor of, or even publicly supporting a term limits amendment, a member of Congress can be exposed to charges of hypocrisy or disingenuousness if they don't also voluntarily limit their term of service. This has a chilling effect on those who would otherwise support term limit efforts," the congressional duo write.

Go here for more from Bridenstine and O'Roarke on how they plan to get term limits adopted.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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Mark Tapscott

Executive Editor
The Washington Examiner