Term limits for thee, but not for me

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is sponsoring a bill that would limit U.S. senators to two 6-year terms (read story here).

Except him. Under his bill, Cruz, 52, would have to retire in January 2036, when he’s 66. By then, he’ll have served five 6-year terms in the Senate.

Term limits are a favorite shibboleth of the right, which of course its most vocal proponents often honored in the breach. It’s not a new idea; the GOP doesn’t have new ideas. Republicans made a concerted push for term limits in the 1990s that petered out after the Supreme Court struck down term limits for Congress as unconstitutional.

(The way this works is the Constitution establishes qualifications for members of the House and Senate, and imposing additional conditions would effectively amend the Constitution with legislation. The president is limited to two terms, but that was done by amending the Constitution, not passing a bill in Congress.)

Voters, of course, can term-limit politicians (except those on the Supreme Court) whenever they like. The fact conservatives want legal term limits provides a clue that it’s a bad idea. As Slate said in a 2018 article (here), “Term limits exacerbate all the worst features of American governance, while improving little about our candidates or elections. The quality of lawmaking goes down, the influence of lobbyists goes up ….” For more explicit reasons why it’s a bad idea, see the Brookings Institution article (also in 2018) here.

I’ll put more simply: I don’t want inexperienced amateurs running our government. That makes about as much sense as hiring a dishwasher to run a corporation.

Perhaps term limits aren’t always a bad idea; for example, even after 12 years in the Senate, Cancun Ted is still no good at governing, as shown by the fact he flees the country if someone might ask him to. And it’s fair to ask, if he thinks limiting senators to two terms is a hot idea, then why doesn’t he resign? He’s already served his two, and is now on his equally unproductive third.

In any case, if we’re going to term-limit somebody, then let’s term-limit the Supreme Court, starting with Alito and Thomas. That makes a lot more sense, because the justices were never elected in the first place, and the voters can’t term limit them. And you can at least argue that it doesn’t require amending the Constitution, which means Congress can do it (see article here).

But getting back to the Senate, if we’re going to reform that body, it makes a lot more sense to amend the Constitution to make Senate representation based on population. There’s no reason for Alaskans to have 53 times as much say as Californians; they aren’t 53 times smarter. In order to keep the Senate at a manageable size (e.g. 100), some states might end up with no Senate representation, but most of those states don’t deserve any senators anyway.

On the other hand, you can argue the current system has some merit. For example, Texas is underrepresented in the Senate, thank God; that’s a blessing in disguise.

But I have a solution for that: Have Puerto Rico trade places with Texas. That is, P.R. will be a state, and Texas will be a territory. This makes a lot of sense, because Puerto Ricans think of themselves as Americans, and Texans don’t. So switching places will make them both happy.

Return to The-Ave.US Home Page

Comments are closed.