SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCLIMITING TERMS OF OFFICE FOR MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND U.S. SENATE
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 1997
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Constitution,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:40 a.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Charles T. Canady (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Charles T. Canady, Henry J. Hyde, William L. Jenkins, Bob Barr, Asa Hutchinson, Robert C. Scott, John Conyers, Jr., and Melvin L. Watt.
Also present: Kathryn Hazeem Lehman, chief counsel; John H. Ladd, counsel; Jacquelene R. McKee, paralegal; Brett Shogren, staff assistant; and Robert Raben, acting minority counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN CANADY
Mr. CANADY. The subcommittee will be in order.
I want to begin by welcoming Mr. Scott to the subcommittee and welcoming him as the ranking minority member of the subcommittee. I am very much looking forward to working with you, Mr. Scott. We are all glad that you have joined us on the Constitution Subcommittee.
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I would also like to welcome the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson, who is a new member of the subcommittee.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. And Mr. Jenkins, who is a new member of the subcommittee. We are very pleased that you both have joined the subcommittee and we look forward to working with you. And as always, I am glad that Mr. Hyde is on the subcommittee.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. This morning, the Subcommittee on the Constitution convenes for the first time in the 105th Congress. First on the subcommittee's order of business is today's hearing to consider constitutional amendments to limit the terms of Members of Congress.
From 1990 to 1995, 23 States adopted measures to limit the terms of office for their Federal legislators. In March 1995, we held the first ever floor vote to limit terms of the Members of the House and Senate. Unfortunately, none of the measures considered achieved the necessary two-thirds support of the House.
In May 1995, in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the State-imposed term limits for Federal legislators. In light of the Supreme Court ruling, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only means of imposing term limits on Members of Congress.
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Some advocates of term limits have again focused their efforts on the State level. This last election, the voters of nine States adopted initiatives to require their Federal Representatives to support a 6-year term limit in the House and a 12-year term limit in the Senate or face a notation next to their name at the next election that the Representative disregarded voter instruction on term limits.
A petition for certiorari concerning the validity of the Arkansas ballot initiative is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the significant turnover in the membership of Congress since 1994, voter support for term limits remains very high.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in August 1996 showed that 73 percent of voters polled support limiting the terms of Members of Congress. In my view, term limits are needed to ensure that Members of Congress do not lose sight of their true responsibilities as Representatives. With term limits, Members of Congress will come to Washington with their eyes firmly set on the goal of working for the good of the Nation, rather than on the objective of permanently perpetuating themselves in office.
I want to thank each of the witnesses who will testify for being with us this morning. I look forward to their testimony.
On our first panel todayfirst I will recognize Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I knew that we were going to work together cooperatively.
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Since this is my initial subcommittee meeting in the 105th Congress, I want to take the opportunity to say that I look forward to working with you as the ranking minority member. And it is my desire to work as cooperatively as possible ensuring that the Constitution is revered, protected, and defended as we consider bills and issues coming before us. I just hope that your decision to have us begin on the subject of term limits doesn't reflect your intent to make sure that my tenure as ranking minority member is as short as possible.
As we look at the issue today, I believe that term limits is not only bad public policy but it is completely unnecessary to accomplish the result of Member turnover. We already have term limits; they occur every 2 years. Over half of the current Members were elected since 1992 and almost three-fourths were elected in 1990 or later.
If term limits as a matter of public policy were merely unnecessary, I am not sure I would oppose them so vigorously, but I think they are not only unnecessary, they are bad public policy. The term limit restrictions will have the corrosive effect on our efforts to produce sound legislation.
The reasons suggested for term limitsavoiding corruption, bureaucracies, and losing touch with ordinary citizensare all good rationales but, in fact, the problems the supporters of term limits say they want to address would be made worse, not obviated, by terms limits.
My sense, and I am eager to hear from the witnesses on whether they have any data on this, is that term limits would create the corrupting influences, not solve them. That is, if an elected official knows he will serve for 6 years and having in some cases endured significant opportunity costs with government service, he may be more inclined to curry favor with corporate interests likely to hire him when his 6 years are up.
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On the other hand, if a person serves for a length of time and his constituents approve of his or her performance, there is less likelihood that they will succumb to the perceived pressures of ingratiating themselves to corporate influences for future employment.
Further, to the extent that there is susceptibility to undue influence, in my view, the period when an elected official is most vulnerable to it, if at all, is at the beginning of his career, not later. That is, at the onset, unless we have public financing for campaigns, a candidate is more likely to need resources from wherever they can find them, whileat the beginning of their career, while the more experienced legislator, with higher name recognition, is less likely to be more responsive to a particular group when they originally supported him.
So term limits would create a situation where almost all of our Members will be new when they really need the special interest groups or it will be at the end of their careers when they are looking for another job, and I think that would create more corrupting influences rather than solve them.
It is interesting to note that supporters of term limits indicate that term limits will make Congressmen more responsive to the public and other supporters say it will make them less responsive to the public, and I would be interested to hear from our witnesses as to what it really is.
So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses to shed light on these concerns and on the merits or lack thereof of term limits in general.
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Thank you very much.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you. Mr. Hyde.
Mr. HYDE. No statement.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. JENKINS. No.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for recognizing me for a few opening comments. I am honored to serve on the subcommittee and look forward to working with you and this committee over the next 2 years.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, my State of Arkansas is one of the nine States that adopted ballot initiatives dealing with term limits this past November. Under the measure, which was adopted overwhelmingly, legislators who support any term limits measure exceeding a 6-year limit for the House will have the words ''disregarded voters' instruction on term limits'' placed next to their name on any future ballots.
As you mentioned, this is currently on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, awaiting a ruling on the writ of certiorari. Opponents have challenged this and hopefully there will be a decision by the Supreme Court.
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This measure was not necessary when it comes to me. I have long been a advocate of term limits. In the original litigation before the Supreme Court, United States Term Limits v. Thornton, I was a party to that litigation in support of the term limits initiative and its constitutionality.
Consistent with the will of Arkansans, I have cosponsored legislation limiting House Members to 6 years of service and Senators to 12 years, but I would like to have a broader debate on the issues.
It is ironic that one of my first votes as a supporter of term limits could be against term limits if the 12-year limit on Congressmen is the first to be voted upon. But I am committed to the principle of term limits as I have always been, and will continue to fight for that and for a full and fair debate, including all of the proposals that will be presented to Congress.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
Now we will get to our first panel. I want to thank each of you for being here today. On our first panel here today I will
Mr. CONYERS. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CANADY. I am sorry, I did not see Mr. Conyers. Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. I apologize for arriving late. And if I might be permitted an observation, with such a distinguished panel I compliment you today for bringing together George Will, John Dingell, and Fred Thompson. That is reallythat makes my whole day. No matter what they say this morning, this is going to be very exciting for me.
So I wanted to say good morning to all of you and let you know that your Judiciary Committee is hard at work. We have labored over this little animal before us before, and I guess we will be called upon to do it again.
I have a couple notions that I would like to spread upon the record. I will have more detail later, of course. But, you know, what I am trying to figure out, ladies and gentlemen, is what major American socioeconomic problems will be improved by anybody's term limits? I would like to go into that with a little bit more detail.
Secondly, I am in the process of looking at the ages and the seniority of Members, because there may be something in there, Fred. I mean, maybe what we have got a problem with is that the people are too old. I mean, let's just put it on the table here this morning. I mean, maybe it is really not term limits; it is just these old duffers and we want to really find a polite way, in our constitutional responsibilities, to get in fresh blood wherein there may be fresh ideas, a greata good notion.
And so there might be a logic to let's justwe have a minimum age limit. Maybe we need a maximum age limit. I mean, you can't be 24 and walk into the House of Representatives. So maybe if we hit it, this is no notes, about 40 or 45, I mean, you know, let's get these young guys in here and rotate them out and we will be getting the best of all worlds, for goodness sakes.
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And while we are at it, how about rotating out all the political commentators who would be over influencing these new guys. Like a guy that has been writing for a magazine for 20 years or so, that wouldn't be fair for him to have toI mean, all these new guys would be coming in listening to him.
I know there may be a constitutional infirmity here or there.
Mr. HYDE. We are amending the Constitution.
Mr. CONYERS. Yes. This might be a constitutional infirmity.
But the whole idea is we don't want political commentators with long seniority in the private sector, you know, over influencing all these new, young fresh guys that are coming in here, and gals.
So, please, take this as, you know, an unformed train of thought that we may come back to from time to time. You know, there are a lot of men of maturity, should I say, John, who are coming into the Congress as new Members and, hey, maybe that is just contradicting the objective that some people may be really shooting at.
Well, anyway, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to make these comments.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Conyers.
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Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, I think I will pass.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
We will go to our first panel now, and our first witness on the first panel will be Senator Fred Thompson. Senator Thompson represents the State of Tennessee and is a prominent voice in favor of term limits. He serves on the Senate Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, and Foreign Relations Committees.
Next, we will hear from Congressman Bill McCollum. Congressman McCollum, who represents Florida's Eighth District, is a distinguished member of the Judiciary Committee and chairs the Crime Subcommittee. He has introduced term limits legislation since 1981, and has already introduced H.J. Res. 2, a proposed amendment, in the 105th.
Congressman John Dingell will follow. Congressman Dingell represents the 16th District of Michigan and has the venerable distinction of being the Member with the longest number of consecutive years of service in the House.
Also testifying will be Congressman Joe Barton, who serves the Sixth District of Texas and is chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, we will hear from Representative Tillie Fowler. Mrs. Fowler represents the Fourth District of Florida, and since her original election in 1992 has been a strong advocate for term limits in the House.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRED THOMPSON, A SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I have submitted a statement, which I assume will be made a part of the record.
Mr. CANADY. Yes. The statement of all the witnesses will be made a part of the record without objection. We would ask that you, and all the other witnesses, summarize your testimony in 5 minutes.
Mr. THOMPSON. All right. We will do our best. In trying to think of something new to say about this debateam I on?
Mr. CANADY. Senator, I don't think your microphone is on.
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
In trying to think of something new to say about this debate, I have decided that there is nothing, and we all know each other's arguments. I think there are some well-founded points to be made on either side of this issue. I would just hope that as we go back for another round that we are able to look at it maybe a little bit differently.
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It seems like we often get bogged down immediately in the personalities and acrimony and that sort of thing. I think it is good to focus in on what this is not about. It is not about new faces in place of old faces. A person who is new could have an improper motivation and a person who is a little older could be the opposite. So new faces in and of themselves is not the issue here, clearly.
It is not a reflection upon the long service of many who have served here. My mentor is Howard Baker of Tennessee, who would have been affected by what I am suggesting here. We undoubtedly would lose some years of good service by some people. There is no question about that. It is not about who is hypocritical or who is not. This is not in terms of whether Members are for retroactivity or that sort of thing. It is not about individuals.
I think too often as Members of Congress, we look at our neighbor to our left or to our right or to ourselves and we make this debate about individuals, and would we lose the service of Senator so and so here? Well, Members of Congress, the number that we have here, make up 2 millionths of 1 percent of the population of this country. I don't think we are the only ones qualified to serve.
It is not about whether or not it is democratic or not. We limit ourselves as a free people in many ways. The Congressman mentioned the fact that you can't be a Member of Congress if you are 24 years of age, no matter how many votes you get. So to me it is about is what is the best form of government, what is the best system, as we look to the problems of the future.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And as I say, there are good arguments on each side, but Thomas Jefferson and others pointed out it is totally appropriate from time to time to reexamine ourselves and see if we are properly equipped or we are set up in the right way to face the challenges we are going to be facing.
I simply think in looking toward what we have got to do, we have got to do so much, so well for so long, just with regard to, let's say, the fiscal and economic problems of this country, that I am not sure that we are equipped to do under the present circumstances. We have shown really no indication for any long-term stick-to-itiveness to solve the problems, and I am afraid that a lot of our problems relate to the professionalization, if you would, of our political system. Again, not about individualsyou can create examples that show just diametrically the opposite of what I am saying on an individual basis.
But as a whole, as a system, I am more and more concerned that the desire for longevity is part of the root cause of many of our problems. Yes, we need professionals in many different respects but, quite frankly, this is not brain surgery and this is not a NASA operation.
Our problem is not lack of expertise. We have expertise. We have some new people coming in with it. We have some people who have been here for awhile that probably many of the newer ones will never achieve in terms of expertise, and we need it all. But our problem, our major problem, in facing the future is not one of lack of expertise; it is a lack of will power. It is a lack of a desire to make the tough choices and do the tough things in light of the fact that we might be sent back home to the farm. That is a motivating factor, I think, that is too pervasive under our current system.
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If we are honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge, yes, the voters get a chance to vote. Ninety-two percent of the House Members were returned who stood for reelection; 95 percent of the Members of the Senate this last time who stood for reelection won another term. It is not just about turnover.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, we have kind of a closed system, Mr. Chairman, greatly in favor of those who choose politics as a career, and it is honorable, and thank goodness that some people in this room have chosen to do that. Basically, unless you have great access to great resources, either personally or having served many years achieving seniority and thereby putting yourself in that kind of position, you are kind of closed out of the system. I think that is one of the reasons why we saw for the first time less than half of our people voting this time.
It is open if you think that the average person can run for Congress anymore, and it happens sometimes, but by and large, again, totality as a system, we are getting a little more closed all the time and I don't think that is good for us. It is just that simple.
So I submit my comments for the record.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Senator.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Thompson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF FRED THOMPSON, A SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to your hearing on one of the most important legislative proposals in this Congress.
Let me talk for a minute about what the effort to get the constitutional amendment for term limits passed is not all about. It is not about simply changing new faces for old faces. It is not about vindictiveness because we are mad at Congress, as a lot of people are, and we want to punish somebody.
As a matter of fact, it is about just the opposite. It is about making Congress more credible with the American people. Columnist George Will, who will testify shortly, will speak to his change of heart in favor of term limits for this reason. If we had a system more like the one that was contemplated by our Founding Fathers, a true citizen legislature, people would feel closer to their government and have more respect for it.
Mr. Chairman, we know that the demographics of Social Security are catching up with us. We know that Medicare is in dire jeopardy. Yet we cannot get to first base in doing anything about it. The demographers say we cannot continue down the road that we are on. Everyone in Washington, DC, will acknowledge that behind closed doors.
Even if we balance the budget by the year 2002, our country will still be facing a $6 trillion debt. The first step is obviously entitlement spending. Nobody wants to do anything about entitlement spending because where the problem is is also where the votes are. Everybody knows that we cannot continue to increase spending on these programs every year at 10 percent. But we do not have the ability to tell that to anybody, because we are afraid to, because we want to get reelected, and we want the campaign contributions that come from it.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All of the budget plans that have been laid on the table in the past two years, and I will be as bipartisan as I can about this, back end load the problem. All we are doing is putting numbers down on a piece of paper, hoping that years later, some future Congress will have the guts to do what we do not have the guts to do. We claim we will slash discretionary spending in the outyears, after we are out of office. That is hogwash. It will not happen and everyone knows it is not going to happen.
There is no immediate payoff from spending on infrastructure and research and development that will make our industries stronger down the road. It is hard to explain that to people. But it is not difficult to explain a check that comes in the mail every month that is 10% more than the check you got in the mail last year. That is why we are in the position we are in.
That is where term limits comes in. Circumstances have changed over the past 200 years. Government has grown mightily. And we have been overtaken by the cult of spending, the political reward you get from bribing taxpayers with their own money. No politician was ever turned out of office simply because he said to somebody, that, yes, they could have whatever they wanted.
Special interest groups have proliferated. People have a right to come and petition their government. If we are going to pass laws that affect peoples lives, we have to expect people to come in and tell us what effect that is going to have. But interest groups have a carrot and stick for every member of Congress. The carrot is financing them. The stick is working against their reelection. Those are powerful motivations for more and more spending.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Term limits is no panacea. This constitutional amendment process in and of itself certainly is not a panacea. But what it will do is give us a chance to deal with these problems, to ameliorate the cult of spending that we have all fallen into in this town. In the first place, it will open positions. People will know that certain positions will open from time to time, and if they ever want to serve their country a little bit and come up here and look after the interests of their children and do the right thing, they do not have to go up against some well-entrenched incumbent who has all the money he can possibly use because that is where the money flows. They can say, yes, I have done something with my life already. I have a career, I am a small business woman, or I am a farmer, or I am a professional person. But I can give a few years to my country, knowing that I will be coming back home before too long. What is going to be the motivation of that person to build a political career, and to be timid and say, yes, to every special interest and spend and spend and spend? There would be no incentive to do that because after a certain number of years, under this constitutional amendment, he is out.
I ask my colleagues in Congress to imagine what it would be like to serve 6 years in the Senate or a last term in the House, knowing that you are not going to have to raise any more money, and knowing that you are not going to have to worry about being turned out of office. Would that not be more likely to produce people who would be willing to take some risks in leveling with the American people, and saying we cannot consume any more right now because we are taking it from the unborn, because they will be the ones that have to pay the consequences? How many times have you heard anybody say that recently? I think if we had a different kind of system, we would be more likely to see that on a consistent basis. I think we would be more likely to do something about the cynicism that we have seen, which has been too prevalent for too many years.
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding this hearing, and I commend the House leadership for bringing this important issue to the attention of the full House as a top priority of the 105th Congress.
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Mr. CANADY. Representative McCollum.
STATEMENT OF HON. BILL McCOLLUM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly want to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Thompson. I think he has generally described the situation on term limits. I would like to just revisit history a minute with you, though.
We were here together about 2 years ago. I recall coming to testify before this subcommittee in the first hearing the U.S. House of Representatives ever had on term limits in the entire history of the Congress. And we knew at that time we were going to have a historic first vote the U.S. House of Representatives ever had in a few weeks, and we had that vote on March 29, 1995.
We had a series of proposals that were offered on the floor, each one getting differing votes. The one I offered, the 12-year limit, 12 years for the House and 12 years for the U.S. Senate, received by far and away the most votes. It got a majority of our colleagues, 227. It did not get the two-thirds majority, the 290 necessary, to pass a constitutional amendment. And unfortunately because of the way things worked it never got its chance in the Senate, nor did other versions, such as Senator Thompson's. But we did get a historic first vote in the House.
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And we are back here today, I believe, because the American people really and truly understand the importance of this issue and because we have momentum in this Nation moving toward the concept of limiting the length of time that Members of the U.S. House and Senate can serve for any number of reasons, a number of which were expressed by Senator Thompson.
But, one I want to stress with you today and there is one that I think is the overriding reason why term limits are so important. It is because of the fact that most Members who come here, at least a great percentage of them, all too many, come with a career orientation. They may not keep that but they come here with it. They have an overwhelming desire to get reelected. That overwhelming desire tends to make Members, in my judgment, listen to too many different special interest groups, and everybody has a special interest. And when you are trying to please everybody and get reelected, you don't wind up with good government decisions, in my judgment.
Now that doesn't mean every Member who stays here a long period of time is afflicted with that. We have some distinguished Members here today in our presence whom I would not put in that category. But I think if you look at the good of the whole and you look at where the House has gone and the Senate has gone and government has gone over the past few years, the end product of all of this and the reason why the public has such a loss of faith in the institution many times comes because, in large measure, that is that net result.
It is human nature at play and only if you limit terms are you going to be able to mitigate that and reduce it. You won't ever eliminate it altogether and you don't want to eliminate it altogether. I think 12 years is the right length of time rather than 6 or 8 or some other number. That is subject to debate.
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The reason why I think 12 years is important in both bodies: First of all, I don't think it is right to have 6 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate. I think you have a historical imbalance if you go that kind of route. You will make a stronger Senate and weaker House in terms of conference committees that meet to determine legislation and in lots of other ways. And I don't think that is good for the checks and balances of our system.
I also don't happen to think that 6 years is long enough for somebody to serve as a Member and be ready, during the tenure of the 6 years, after the fourth year, let's say, or the third year, to be the chairman of a major committee or more particularly to be in leadership with the complex government we have. I wish it weren't so, but I believe that that is true, and I think 12 years is the right number of years.
There is, however, subject and room for lots of debate over that. That is what I am here today to ask this committee to do, to produce a constitutional amendment, more than one perhaps but at least the 12-year one that got by far and away the most votes in the House last time. Let us have another opportunity to see if we can improve upon that margin to get closer to or to achieve the 290 votes that we need.
There is one other thing I can't help but comment on, Mr. Chairman, and that is that there is in the term limit initiatives that are going on, such as in Mr. Hutchinson's State of Arkansas, by U.S. Term Limits, I think what is a vicious and reckless movement. It is an effort to, I am sure a sincere effort by the people involved, to try to achieve their 6-year limit in the House and 12 years in the Senate and the devil take the hindmost with respect to any other provisions and any other person's view on the subject. As a result of that, I think that they are leading us in this process towards gridlock, where term limits could never be achieved. As I say, it is a reckless thing in that sense.
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The ballot initiatives, in my judgment, are misleading. They are complex. I doubt most of the voters have any concept of exactly what they are voting for, and probably many of them would be chagrined to know that they are going to have voter instructions placed next to the name of a Member of Congress who voted for 12-year term limits, or voted for any term limits. Somebody could be a very strong advocate, such as myself, over the years, of term limits, but they would be castigated as having violated voter instructions on term limits on the next election with that by their name.
What that really means, since there are only a few States that have initiatives, no more than half the States, if even that, that you can possibly get on the ballot. Ifand I don't believe it would happenthis movement were successful in all of those States, you would have quite a number of Members in Congress afraid, naturally, to vote in violation of that because they don't want to have that appear next to their name, and yet you still wouldn't get the rest of the Members of Congress to vote for the 6-year term limit; 12 years being the preference for those who want it and many Members being opposed to it.
So instead of succeeding in the cause and the goal that this group has, my judgment is if that movement progresses and has its day, we will see a decline in the support for total numbers for any particular version of term limits, and those who oppose them will prevail. It will be a very big mess and it will be very unfortunate.
I just question very seriously the irresponsible attitude, I think it is very irresponsible, of those who promote that.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I only bring it up to you not only because this body decides that but to put it in perspective, because there is going to be a different dynamic in voting on term limits this year than there was before because of this, and I think that we will have to struggle to get more than 227 for any term limits proposal this time for that reason.
I believe we will, with your blessing and letting us have the vote, but it is going to be much more difficult to rally the cause to get a large number to vote for any single term limit proposal. But I urge you, again, to produce one, hopefully more than one perhaps, but at least the 12-year one that got the most votes last time, and I thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. McCollum.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McCollum follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. BILL MCCOLLUM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. Chairman, it is my pleasure to come before your subcommittee today to discuss the important issue of term limits It was not long ago when I sat before this subcommittee in the 104th Congress and talked about the historic vote on term limits we would be taking in the near future. Eventually we did take that vote and on March 29, 1995, a majority of our colleagues voted for a 12-year term limit in the House and Senate. The 12-year limit, or the so-called McCollum bill, received 227 votes to be exact. This was not the two-thirds necessary to pass a proposed constitutional amendment, but it was encouraging. After all, I originally introduced this legislation in 1981. In sixteen years, it had never received so much as a hearing and suddenly a majority of our colleagues were voting for it on the House floor.
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That was two years ago. The need for term limits has not diminished at all since that vote. Mr. Chairman, we need to continue making progress on this critical issue and I am glad we have the forum to do so today.
It has always been my judgment that the status quo in Congress encourages Members to become career oriented serving as a Member of Congress is a full-time job. Our Founding Fathers had not envisioned it as such, and therefore had different expectations as to how this institution would operate. Today, when someone comes to Congress, there is no time to pursue another vocation. Being in Congress is a job in and of itself. Therefore, it is natural for people to become a little security conscious since looking for new employment is rarely a pleasure.
This career orientation also stems from, and perhaps is largely due to, the seniority system in the House and Senate. Although we each have one out of 435 votes in the House, Mr. Chairman, the more powerful Members tend to be the more senior ones. The senior Members have a better knowledge of the process and often times of an issue's substance. As we become chairmen, our staffs increase, which lends us an additional advantage in our area of expertise. Finally, it is the chairmen and the House (or Senate) leadership who control the calendars.
If I were to come into Congress today and really want to make an impact on policy, I would have the opportunity to do so. But it would not be with the ease and advantages that senior Members have.
So what does this career orientation mean? My judgment is that too many Members are more worried about getting reelected than they should be. Consequently the tendency of most will be to try to please every interest group in order to get reelected. While term limits would not completely end this attitude, it would mitigate it considerably. Term limits would mean that when somebody is elected to Congress they would know they were only coming here to serve a short period of time, not to make a career out of it.
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Of course, there has been much discussion as to which term limits are actually necessary. I personally favor lengthening terms to 4 years and limiting Members to three 4-year terms. I have introduced legislation reflecting this and I am pleased to cosponsor legislation introduced by our colleague from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, which would also accomplish this.
However, the support for such a change is not yet there. Indeed, it is my opinion that we must act upon the legislation which has the best chance of passing in the House. Clearly this is the 12-year term limit legislation. No other bill came close to its popularity in the 104th Congress and there is absolutely no reason to believe that this has changed in the 105th Congress. I believe the vote coming in February will prove this to be correct.
Of course, there will always be term limits supporters who disagree with a 12-year limit. Some feel that a 6-year limit, such as that introduced by my friend and distinguished member of this Subcommittee, Mr. Bob Inglis, would be more appropriate. I must respectfully disagree. First, a 6-year limit in the House and a 12-year limit in the Senate gives disproportionate power to the Senate. Senators will have more issue and institutional knowledge relative to House Members, which would affect our ability in conference committees among other things. Furthermore, I do not believe that 6 years is enough for Members to learn the intricacies of some issues to effectively chair many committees much less run the House leadership. Today's issues (e.g. telecommunications or utilities deregulation) should require something more than 4 years of exposure before somebody assumes the chair. Should we go to a 6-year limit, relatively naive members will continually depend more and more on a permanent staffwhich is not what we should encourage.
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Unfortunately, some feel the urge to undermine the progress we have made on this issue because it is not their preferred version of term limits. Some of the 6-year advocates are so adamant that they are trying to kill anything else. But the question I continue to ask myself is whether it is important to enact a 12-year limit or no limit at all, since a 6-year limit lacks support in the House and has even less support in the Senate. This strategy is not helpful and frankly, the motives are questionable.
Regardless, most of us remain a team on this issue. It is important that we work together to ensure continued progress on term limits. I am confident that people still fervently believe term limits are a necessary and prudent reform. It is my sincere hope that my colleagues will agree.
I want to thank you personally, Mr. Chairman, for showing continued leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with you as term limits moves through the committee process and onto the House floor.
Mr. CANADY. Representative Dingell.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN DINGELL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. DINGELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the term limits proposal is a magnificent solution to a nonexistent problem, which it most diligently pursues. It also is a fine example of tinkering with the Constitution in a way which benefits no one and contributes nothing to the well-being of the country.
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It also resolves a problem which was well discussed in the constitutional convention, where it was determined that there should be very narrow constraints on the limits of who would serve in the House and in the Senate.
It also is a device which would shift splendidly the power from the elected Representatives of the people to lobbyists and to the executive branch. It contributes nothing in terms of responsible service, nor does it cause any significant turnover in the institution. In my prepared statement, which I ask to be inserted in the record, I address these matters in greater detail.
Mr. Chairman, according to the Congressional Research Service, 314 Members, nearly 3 out of 4, of today's House of Representatives were elected in 1900 or later. If immediate term limits were made effective for the 106th Congress
Mr. BARR. 1990 or later.
Mr. DINGELL. That is what I said, 1990.
Mr. BARTON. You said 1900.
Mr. DINGELL. Oh, my, what a terrible mistake.
By the way, I want to thank my friend for his correction. I also want to observe that he is cosponsor with me of the legislation which I am suggesting to this committee.
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If immediate term limits were made effective for the 106th Congress, at least 123 more Members would automatically be disqualified from service. Such a disqualification would mean a little more than 100 percent turnover in 8 years.
Proposals to limit service to 6 years would mean that last year's freshman Congress class Members would now be in their last election cycle if Congress were to apply the principle of immediacy to term limits under the 6-year plan.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, together with my dear friend, Mr. Barton of Texas, I recently introduced H.J. Res. 8, a bill which would amend our Constitution to place a 6-term limit on Members of the House and a 2-term limit on Members of the Senate.
This bill would not alter the length of terms for either body. However, it does introduceit does differ from the amendment I introduced in the 104th Congress by taking into account the expressed desire of many term limit proponents to have a uniform system of term limits. Indeed, I agree with those who argue against creating a haphazard patchwork of different term limits, which would create a sudden shift of power amongst the several States with quite unknown consequences to this Republic.
Mr. Chairman, if we are to have term limits, most of the proposals which are before you would see to it that they went in effect something like 19 years from today, which would mean that the Members who are now serving would have to wait 7 years, and I am referring to my good friends, the proponents of this, would have to wait 7 years while the ratification took place and then 12 years more, which would mean approximately 19 years added to whatever service might now be the record of the individual Member.
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Now, I make no bones about it. I think the whole idea of term limits is inconsistent with what the Founding Fathers intended. I think it is mischievous in terms that it shifts power away from the elected representatives of the people.
I think that it contributes greatly to a debate which does nothing about addressing the substantive problems which confront the country. It also addresses a problem which, in fact, I believe does not exist. I make it plain, I am the most senior Member of this body. I also make it plain that I take no shame in that. I also make it quite plain that I have to go home and answer to my people every 2 years, as do we all. And so the term limits which we all confront are a period of 2 years, and if we do a good job, people will give us the job again. If we do not, people will not. And that is how it should be and that is how it was intended by the Founding Fathers.
The process that I discussed today would impose immediate departure on me, who has served 22 terms; Speaker Gingrich, who has served 10 terms; Democratic Leader Gephardt with 11 terms; Representative Bonior with 11 terms; my good friend Representative DeLay with 7 terms. We are ready to go but at the pleasure of the people. We will be judged harshly by those people as we continue our service here in the Congress of the United States.
Mr. Chairman, I have other thoughts that I would like to share with you but I know the yellow light is on and I want to quit while I am ahead. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Dingell.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Dingell follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN D. DINGELL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for making available to me some time during this hearing to discuss different ideas for effectively imposing term limits on Members of Congress.
I think it is important, as legislation is prepared on this important Constitutional question, to highlight a couple of important facts:
According to the Congressional Research Service, 314 Membersnearly three out of four of today's House of Representatives were elected in 1990 or later.
If immediate term limits were made effective for the 106th Congress, at least 123 more Members would automatically be disqualified from service. Such a disqualification would mean a little more than 100 percent turnover in eight years.
Proposals to limit service to six years would mean that last year's freshman class members are now in their last election cycleif Congress were to apply the principle of immediacy to term limits to a six-year plan.
As you know, together with Representative Joe Barton of Texas, I recently have reintroduced House Joint Resolution 8, a bill which would amend our Constitution to place a six-term limit on Members of the House and two-term Unit on Members of the Senate. This bill would not alter the current length of terms for either body. However, it does differ from the Amendment I supported in the 104th Congress by taking into account the expressed desire of many term limit proponents to have a uniform system of term limits. Indeed, I agree with those who argue against creating a haphazard patchwork of different term limits, which would create a sudden shift of power among the states with unknown consequences for this Republic.
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I believe that the U.S. Supreme Court was correct when it ruled in 1995 (U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton and State of Arkansas) that states do not hold the power to place additional qualifications on the service of Members of Congress. Clearly, a Constitution Amendment would be required. H.J. Res. 8 reflects the Court's opinion, and my own conviction, that allowing states to set their own Congressional term limits would fundamentally change the entire Constitutional framework, with unpredictable consequences regarding the balance of power among the states. With the Supreme Court having ruled on the matter of state preemption, I do riot intend to reinject that issue into the term limits debate.
The controversy which surrounds the Amendment I am offering with Representative Barton arises because we have proposed to make term limits immediate. As you will note in Section 2 of the proposed Article, Members with more than six terms of service, such as myself, would become immediately ineligible to run for re-election to the House. Any one of our 11 colleagues first sworn in on January 3, 1989 would replace me as Dean of the House should this Amendment be ratified by the States prior to the next election. The top members of both parties' leadership teams would have to be replaced at the start of the 106th Congress, assuming quick action on the part of Congress and the states.
The Amendment I am presenting today should have the wholehearted support of those who really support term limits, because it would make term limits a reality now, not one or two decades from now, after a lengthy Constitutional ratification process and up to twelve more years of service from Members like me (22 terms), Speaker Gingrich (10 terms), Democratic Leader Gephardt (11 terms), Representative Bonior (11 terms) and Representative DeLay (7 terms).
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I stated during debate in the last Congress, one of the major arguments for adopting a Constitutional Amendment to limit terms is that it is popular. In fact, more recent opinion polls, taken since the House last considered this question, show term limits to be as popular as ever, with as many as three out of four Americans favoring them for Congress. I want to remind my colleagues that today's public isn't dissatisfied with tomorrow's Congress. They want change now. If term limits are the cure for what ails our federal government, we should not delay immediate treatment. Rather we should act boldly and fairly by applying the same rules to ourselves as we do to our successors.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Barton.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOE BARTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. BARTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is always an honor to appear before your subcommittee and to have not only yourself and the ranking minority member of the subcommittee but the full committee, Chairman of the full committee, and ranking minority member.
Mr. Conyers talked about some of the distinguished panelists. He didn't mention former Congressman Bill Frenzel, who was one of the most distinguished, and I was delighted to serve with Congressman Frenzel when he was in the Congress.
Mr. CONYERS. I apologize profusely.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARTON. I am going to submit my written statement and make a few comments.
I think first we need to state the obvious. The American people, in poll after poll, support term limits. I don't care how you dice it, they support it with majorities from 70 to 80 percent. I think it is debatable whether if submitted to the States for ratification as a constitutional amendment you would get three-fourths of the States to ratify term limits, but the fact is the American people support them. Since we are the people's body, we should give the American people, I think, what they want when it is clear that they want something like this.
Having said that, the question then becomes what the vehicle is. John Dingell and myself have introduced what I call the real McCoy term limit bill; six terms, lifetime, no in and out, retroactive. That is a real term limit bill.
If enacted, today I wouldn't be here. John Dingell wouldn't be here. Bill McCollum wouldn't be here. John Conyers wouldn't be here. Henry Hyde wouldn't be here. Because we have all served more than 6 terms.
I am starting my seventh term. I am 110 on the seniority list. So that means that 325 Congressmen in this Congress have served less than six terms. If we are going to have term limits and if we are going to have a term limit vote, we should vote on the Dingell-Barton bill, which is the purest version of term limits. It is that simple. No ifs, ands, or buts.
As Chairman Dingell pointed out, some of the other term limit bills don't take effect for decades. Seven years for the States to ratify, 12 years service and then you would have a term limit. That means if one of those bills were in effect today, you would be term limited as a current Member of the House of Representatives in the year 2016. I dare any Member of Congress to go back to their district, who supports term limits, and say, I am for term limits beginning in the year 2016. You are going to be laughed out of your town meeting.
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So I would encourage this subcommittee, when you report your bill out, if you do it at the subcommittee level or the full committee level, to make in order that the Dingell-Barton bill be one of the recommended bills that goes to the floor.
I will not vote for a rule that does not allow the Dingell-Barton bill a vote on the floor of the House. And I want to remind my Republican colleagues with 227 Republicans, it only takes 10 to defeat a rule if 10 Republicans vote against a rule. So if we are going to have a vote on term limits, let's have a vote on pure term limits. Let's have a vote on the Dingell-Barton bill. Let's give the American people what they want, term limits today, term limits now, term limits that kick out senior Members of Congress today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Barton follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JOE BARTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
I would like to thank Chairman Canady and the other members of the Subcommittee for holding this hearing about term limits for Members of Congress and allowing me to testify.
The Congress is nearing another vote on the popular concept of term limits for Members of Congress. The American people have made the point clear over the last few years in almost every poll taken that they believe in rotating their public officials in and out of office. Their broad support for term limits has been based on the fundamental principles that our nation was founded upon, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Many contend that long term incumbency changes the views of government officials and that the overwhelming advantages of incumbency makes elections less competitive or less representative of the American public. Term limits give a more representative form of government and enriches civic life by giving more citizens the opportunity to serve their localities or states. it is no wonder that twenty-three states have added term limit provisions into their state constitutions.
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The ''Contract With America'' the 104th Congress prescribed also stated that the ''House Republicans recognized the rights of the states and the rights of citizens to limit the terms of their elected officials.'' Despite the victories on the state level, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on May 22, 1995, that state-imposed limits on federally elected officials was unconstitutional. The Court held that the only legitimate way to secure limits on congressional tenure was to amend the United States Constitution. Nine states countered by passing resolutions instructing their members to support term limits of six years in the House and twelve years in the Senate or have their refusal printed next to their name on the next election ballot.
As a result, in the 105th Congress, our constituency have, again, turned to Congress to solve the problem. In the 104th Congress, we reviewed several methods to impose term limits. However, none garnered the necessary 290 votes for passage. I strongly believe that if this Congress is serious about term limits, then it should enact the Dingell/Barton amendment. Our bill calls for limits of twelve years in the House and twelve years in the Senate except that the amendment becomes effective upon ratification by the Congress and the states. In addition, our bill is a ''lifetime ban,'' not a nonconsecutive term version. Retroactive term limits is the strongest method possible to fulfill the wishes of the American people for representative government. Those individuals who truly support term limits and the wishes of their constituents should vote for the Dingell/Barton retroactive term limits amendment.
I believe that the American people are watching our votes and looking for accountability and responsibility in government. I believe that we must not work to protect ourselves but be about the will of the people. The Dingell/Barton bill is a serious effort to enact term limits in a real, sensible fashion that the American people want. I thank the subcommittee for its time and appreciate your granting me the opportunity to speak before you today,
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Mr. CANADY. Representative Fowler.
STATEMENT OF HON. TILLIE FOWLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mrs. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate having the opportunity to testify today, and I appreciate your holding this hearing, and I am so pleased the distinguished chairman of the full committee is here and your ranking minority members.
As you know, although term limit bills have been introduced in nearly every Congress, and, as commented by Representative Barton, voters have overwhelmingly supported almost every term limits initiative that appears on State ballots, previous Congresses have not shared the voters' enthusiasm for this important reform. It wasn't until the 103d Congress that the first hearing was even held on term limits in the House, and it wasn't until the 104th Congress that the first-ever vote occurred on term limits.
And the Chairman and I have a special political kinship with this issue because we were both first elected to the House on the same ballot with Florida's popular ''Eight Is Enough'' term limits initiative. That initiative passed in the State of Florida with 77 percent of the vote, the highest of any term limits initiative in any State.
Now although the Supreme Court struck down that law, the chairman and I have made a personal commitment to voluntarily abide by the voters' wishes and serve just eight consecutive years, which brings me to the legislation I have introduced. My bill would limit Representatives to four 2-year terms and Senators to two 6-year terms. It is modeled after Florida's ''Eight Is Enough'' initiative.
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I have nicknamed it the Goldilocks version of term limits. Like the porridge in the famous nursery story, if you think 6 years is too short and you think 12 years is too long, you might think that 8 years is just right.
But, yes, Mr. Chairman, there are differing versions of term limits and while I have a personal affinity for the 8-year limit, I have a stronger desire to see the people's wish for term limits furthered by this Congress. It is clear that people will vote for any legitimate term limits initiative that appears on the ballot. That is why the 8-year limit passed in Florida and three other States. That is why States like North Dakota and Utah passed 12-year limits and California passed 6 years.
Just as the American people are committed to support any legitimate term limits effort, we in Congress who support term limits should do the same on the House floor.
And I urge this subcommittee to send my bill and any other legitimate term limits legislation to the floor. But I do have to comment as a side bar that I don't consider my distinguished colleagues', Representative Dingell and Representative Barton's, bill legitimate terms limits legislation because they are fully aware that retroactive legislation will never make it out, and since it is a constitutional amendment it will even take their bill 7 years to be effective. Any constitutional amendment has to go to the States to be ratified and it will take 7 years to be effective.
So the rhetoric about their bill saying this is the only one that is going to throw people right out is incorrect, and they know that is a bill that doesn't have a chance and it will just muddy the waters and keep true term limits legislation from passing on the floor.
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So I urge my colleagues to show their support by committing to vote for whichever bill reaches final passage. This institutional reform is too important to get bogged down in a numbers game. Let's have a debate. Then let's pass a term limits amendment on to our States for ratification. Let's let the people of this country have their voice in the need for term limits.
Thank you. I appreciate having the opportunity to testify.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you very much.
I want to thank all the witnesses for your testimony.
I recognize Mr. Hyde for 5 minutes.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am delighted to be in the company of such a distinguished panel on this very important issue.
As a parent, I have always thought the best way to teach is through example, and those of you who are such devotees of term limits, it seems to me, ignore that salutary method of teaching by example. It would seem to me you should have a grand march down the steps of the Capitol, handing in your resignation, because your shelf life has expired.
Mr. McCollum, you are here 16, 18 years.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC People don't vote, Senator, in my inexpert opinion, because they are mostly satisfied. Get them mad and then they will come out and vote. Tell them their registration is questionable and they will be down at the courthouse. But if a lot of people are satisfied, they don't bother to vote, and I don't know what that indicates but the fact that they are not voting doesn't necessarily portray dissatisfaction with the system.
Careers, you know, I just thank God I am an old man and not coming along and having to learn about the computers and cyberspace and this new world that we are coming into. It seems to me we need people who have knowledge and have experience and have understanding.
I have always been interested in foreign policy and someone would say to me, ''How about talking about Bosnia?'' And you start studying that and you start trying to understand the interplay, the ethnic, the religious hatreds, the history. It is a lifetime's work, really, but, of course, that is just one.
Talk about Kashmir, address a group of Pakistanis about Kashmir; the Punjab; Africa, the Hutus, the Tutsis, Zimbabwe; defense, the Strategic Defense Initiative, ballistic missile defense, fiscal policy, monetary policy, the budget, the farm problem. Oh, I have got a grasp of the farm problem after 20-some years. Race, crime, education, welfare, on and on and on, lifetime's work.
But we don't have to worry. We will always have a staff here and they can feed us the answers. They can tell us how to vote. I watch it every day. What is my vote on this one? The staff will tell us. We don't have to worry. They are faceless. They are not elected but, boy, are they powerful.
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I would like to see all of you folks spend your time getting Federal judges rotated out of office. They aren't accountable. They don'tthey are not elected at all. At least every 2 years we have to go back and get a report card. So if you want a turnover, if you really believe don't trust anybody over 30, which is what this is an expression of, then consider the Federal bench.
I think this is a set of handcuffs in search of a prisoner, frankly. The turnover is pretty good here, if you look at the numbers. I think the people of West Virginia if they want to return Robert Byrd time and time and time again, by God, that is their call; not yours and not mine.
I see my time is up, regrettably.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, I will yield to the ranking minority member of the full committee, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Bobby.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. McCollum, is it not true that Speaker Gingrich gamed the system to make sure that term limits would not pass in the last Congress?
Mr. MCCOLLUM. No, that is not true. As far as I know, he is very supportive of term limits, has been and encouraged it.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you for that comment, and I will have further discussion with you about that after this hearing.
Mr. Barton, I am moved by your admonition about what the American people want they should get. Didn't the majority of the American people want Newt Gingrich to step down as Speaker of the House?
Mr. BARTON. I don't think the majority of the American people gothave yet received the true story about Speaker Gingrich.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, oh, I see. Oh, well, then maybe the American people shouldn't get what they want if they don't perceive the true story of the point that we are having a discussion on.
Mr. BARTON. I think the American people understand term limits. As Senator Thompson said, it is not rocket science.
Mr. CONYERS. All right.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the Senate, Senator Thompson, and I admire that body greatly, wouldn't itwould you help end the practice of filibuster, which assures that term limits will never pass in the U.S. Senate?
Mr. THOMPSON. Well, that is only the case because opponents of term limits filibuster. I would rather persuade the opponents of term limits not to look at it personally, not to look at it in ways that we once again get involved here in this discussion, but to really examine objectively, as we can, what is best for the country. Take ourselves out of it. We are all going to be gone one way or another before too long, and I really ponder on the question of what is best for the country going forward. Are we really with our current system and the pressures that we have here, under the best
Mr. CONYERS. So, Fred, you are for a filibuster and you don't even want to give it up to get term limits through, right?
Mr. THOMPSON. Well, Congressman, I admire your logic, if I don't totally understand it. But you reach your own conclusions about that.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, just answer yes or no.
Mr. THOMPSON. Well, no, I won't answer yes or no.
Mr. CONYERS. Oh, OK. Then don't answer yes or no.
Mr. THOMPSON. If you want to discuss the history and
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Mr. CONYERS. Senator
Mr. THOMPSON [continuing]. And the ins and outs of filibustering sometime, invite me back, but while I am here I am going to talk about term limits.
Mr. CONYERS. I will be delighted to do that. I accept publicly your offer for me to extend an invitation.
Now, my mentor, John Dingell, is here before us. And whenever he and Ralph Nader agree on a subject, I think it should be spread upon the public record. They work closely together at times; at times they work less closely together. But I am happy to report that Ralph Nader, for all of you witnesses, is fiercely supportive of term limits. And I hope you will put that on the literature that advances the cause of this subject.
I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for the use of this time.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
Mr. BARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Apparently, there is still a great deal of partisanship poison in the Congress. Despite the President's entreaties to members of his own party, they haven't yet heeded the message.
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As I look at the materials, Mr. Chairman, this hearing today is not about Speaker Gingrich. It is not about filibusters in the Senate. It is about term limits. And I certainly appreciate those Members who have more regard for all of our time than to go off on tangents.
I appreciate the witnesses who are here today and look forward to a very lively debate on this important topic. Whether individual Members like it or not, it is a topic that is important to the American people. And I think that we have an obligation to listen to that and to act upon it and to refuse to act upon it only at our own peril.
The one thing that I do hope we do, and I am sorry that some of the debate already this morning has done this, is I hope we stay away from characterizing this in personal terms.
Mr. McCollum, there probably are people in every one of our districts who could do just as good a job as any one of us up here, but I don't think that says anything about your outstanding service and continued outstanding service in this body, and I am proud to serve with you and under you as chairman of the Crime Subcommittee.
It isn't the point that any one person in any one of our districts might do a better job than we might. What we are talking about here is a systemic change, changing the mechanism whereby people feel empowered to participate in the Government and the mechanism of Government that reflects that. And I think it is important to look at this whole process in terms of can the system be made better? Not can individuals be made better or kicked into or put into office, but can the system work better?
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I also hope, to all members of the panel, that as we move through this process in the coming weeks and months of this Congress in both Houses, that we look at these different proposals as legitimate proposals and stay away from rhetoric that my proposal is the only proposal that works and all of yours are simply subterfuges to avoid issues coming before it. I think that Mr. Barton is very committed to term limits.
And simply because somebody else might have a proposal that differs from him I think it is very inappropriate to say that he somehow is disingenuous.
All of the proposes we have are legitimate proposals. Each of us, I am sure, listens to our constituents and brings to bear to this equation our own experience and ideas, formulated through years of public service and as private citizens, and may be favoring one proposal over another or not favoring any of them. But I do hope we keep the debate on the level that members of this panel have put it and hopefully stay away from interjecting other personalities or any personalities into what is a very legitimate debate.
I think that citizens who may be watching this and who will be watching the debate in months to come, in weeks to come, would really prefer for us to stay away from personalities and interjecting personal matters into this; and I appreciate the members of this panel doing that.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Barr. I do think you make a good point about staying away from personalities. But I will use myself as an illustration because Mr. Hyde raised this point of my seniority and service and so forth.
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I am now beginning my 17th year in Congress, but I think my situation is a good illustration of why we need to have term limits; not because I ought to walk away at the end of 17 years or 16 or 12, but because of the fact that it will be at least 2 or 4 more years I would have to serve, before under our current system that I would be, in all likelihood, chairman of one of the two major committees I have served on the entire time I have been here, Banking or Judiciary.
The reason for that, even though Republicans have now limited the length of time to 6 years anybody can serve as chairman of a full committee or subcommittee, under the rules we have now the general seniority system, while not enforced in technical terms, in practice is. If everybody were limited, if term limits were there for everything across the board at 12 years or whatever number, then there would be an opportunity for me or you or anyone else to serve as chairman in the most powerful positions in this Congress in a much earlier timeframe, not an earlier age.
By the way, the age of the Member is irrelevant; they can come at any age, Mr. Conyers
Mr. BARR. Thank goodness.
Mr. MCCOLLUM [continuing]. And serve and be a participant in this. But I think that is one of the primary reasons we need term limits.
The power is concentrated in too few people who do stay here longer. There is a turnover, but the power is concentrated in those who stay longer. And you do a disservice in a way to your constituents in not staying here and never achieving that level of power if you leave voluntarily under the present system.
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It is unfortunate, it is bad, it is wrong, and it needs to be changed, but that is the way it is right now.
Mr. BARR. I appreciate your comments and thank the chairman for the time.
Mr. CANADY. Again, I want to thank the witnesses for being here.
I have one issue which I want to raise. It is an issue of whether the limitation should be imposed on consecutive service or on lifetime service.
Now, as Representative Fowler discussed, the people of Florida adopted a proposal which would limit Members of the House to no more than four consecutive terms. Representative Fowler and I have committed to serving no more than four consecutive terms. I know many supporters of term limits feel that that is not an adequate limitation, that we should have an absolute requirement that once you have been in for a certain number of years, you can never come back; and I wonder if that is necessary to obtain the real objectives of term limits.
Now, we have many Members of Congress who are now being elected in their 30s. Some of them have limited themselves and are going to serve 6 years, 8 years or 10 or 12. I can imagine a circumstance where someone like that would serve 6 years and be gone, go into a different realm removed from public service, or another area removed from public service, and then at a later stage in life, perhaps after the passage of two decades or more, would wish to come back to Congress. I can see that people in those circumstances might be able to make a valuable contribution due to their prior service.
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It is hard for me to see the harm that would come from allowing someone to come back, at least after they have been out for some substantial period of time.
The problem I see with the current system is that people come here and they soon set it as their goal to maintain themselves in office perpetually or as long as they possibly can stay. That, I think, diverts the attention of Members from where their attention should be, which is serving the interests of their constituents and the public good. I don't see that in order to correct that problem we actually need a lifetime limit.
I have supported a lifetime limit. My goal basically is to come up with that legislation or that proposal which we can bring to the floor that is meaningful and that will impose workable term limits and that will have the best chance of passing. But I would like to ask Senator Thompson to respond to this issue of lifetime limit versus a limit on consecutive service.
Mr. THOMPSON. I don't necessarily feel that a lifetime limit is absolutely required, and it does not matter that much to me. I would be satisfied if we could just kind of move in the right direction.
I think it is unfortunateand I guess it demonstrates the fact that we are not there yetthat we spend an awful lot of time arguing among ourselves about these various kinds of proposals, some designed to help, some designed to keep things from happening. But nothing is going to happen until we all come to the conclusion that we are not ever really going to get a handle on our fiscal problems in this country, for example, that our social programs are going right up to the brink. And I hope I am proven wrong.
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After a few years I might come back here and have a different position if we are proven wrong. But the history of countries in Europe, the history of this Nation, the trend we are on kind of shows me that we are going to go right up the brink; and I do not know whether we will have the political will to solve these problems and make the tough choices and decisions, after the demagoguery we have seen in this last election under our current system.
So, to me, these arguments, with all due respect, I have opinions I guess on all of them, but they do not really make that much difference. I think, almost regardless of the number of years, almost regardless of whether or not it is a lifetime ban, if we could move toward some system where we would tend to have more emphasis and more motivation on the part of Members toward doing what is going to be necessary, which is politically difficult to do, I would be very pleased.
Mr. BARTON. Mr. Chairman, may I make a comment on that?
Mr. CANADY. My time is expired, but without objection, I will give myself an additional minute.
Mr. BARTON. I will be brief.
Since I am one of the proponents of the lifetime ban, again I go back to what the people say they want, and they want new people in the Congress. So I think a lifetime ban is logical.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do believe that Members try very hard to do the very best they can, but for any of us to say that we are the only ones that can represent our district is simply not true. I represent about 600,000 people. I guarantee you if I am killed in a plane crash on the way to Texas this afternoon, a dozen people will file for the vacancy as soon as the secretary of State of Texas certifies that there is a vacancy.
This is not about who is uniquely qualified and simply by being an incumbent we are uniquely qualified. We simply believe that if you are going to have term limits, or I believe I should say, have a lifetime service requirement, make it reasonable. Twelve years is reasonable, a Member can do a lot of good in 12 years, and then let any of other 280 million Americans step forward and have their swing at the plate.
Mr. HYDE. Would the gentleman beI ask unanimous consent that Mr. Canady have 1 additional minute and ask if he would yield to me.
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, I yield.
Mr. HYDE. I appreciate your indulgence.
It just occurred to me as I was thinking about Mr. Barr's remarks, who deplored personalizing this debate, and I can understand if someone thinks term limits is a great idea why you do not want to talk about Everett Dirksen or Henry Jackson or Bob Byrd or Barry Goldwater, Mike Mansfield or Hubert Humphrey or Sam Ervin. I can understandor Bill McCollumI can understand that. But I find it impossible to talk about term limits without personalizing, without talking about the people who have saved this country in times of real crisis, and despite the gentleman's admonition, I intend to continue to do so. Thank you.
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Mr. CANADY. Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My original question, I don't think was answered and that is whether or not term limits would make us more accountable or less accountable. Does anybody want to comment on that?
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Well, I would be very glad to, Mr. Scott.
To the extent that I think one of the problems we have today in career orientation is the fact that there is such a great involvement and concern on so many Members' parts about constantly getting reelected; and therefore, while we want you to, and the public wants you to, pay attention to the constituents, the idea of appealing to all of these interest groups to keep getting reelected is a big negative.
So when you say, will the term limit amendment make you less responsive to the public, I think actually it is going to make you more responsive to the general good that you are elected to do. I think you are elected to come to Washington and the preferred method is not to put your finger in the wind to find out what the public back home thinks and then vote that way, but rather to come up here exercise your best judgment, which is what they want you to do, and then vote that way and not be influenced just because a bunch of interest groups are out there lobbying. They are the squeaky wheel in the turn of it.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So term limits do alleviate some of the political pressurenot all of it.
Mr. SCOTT. So you will be less accountable?
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Not less accountable, but less responsive to the particular type of interest group dynamics that I think is actually perceived by some as being more democratic but, in truth, hurts democracy. In truth, it is not representative government at its best.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Dingell.
Mr. DINGELL. My good friend from Florida just indicted himself seriously because he has 17 years here, and they have been valuable years here, I think. He has served his State and country well. And the thesis is, because you serve here a long time, all of a sudden you become dependent upon this special interest group or that you become keenly attuned to the prospects of getting reelected and the perils and the blessings of a particular course of action in connection with the next election.
I repudiate that. I think that is absolutely wrong. I think what really is the case is that a Member, regardless of the number of years he has served here, whether it be 1 or 3 or 50, is going to be the kind of Member that he is going to be based on the internal qualities that particular individual happens to have.
I see nothing in history that tells me that a fellow who is going to be able to serve three terms is going to be any better Member than a Member who can serve, as the constitutional Founding Fathers intended, for the period that the electorate will give us.
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I happen to think we go home after a long period of public service with full disclosure of everything we do, with a record which is very clear, under attack and praise and so forth not only by our opponent but large numbers of interest groups, and the people can and should make an intelligent judgment. I think that is the thesis.
There is no sign of weakness simply because you served a long time. You have learned something about your trade. You know where your office is, you know how to get around the place, you know who the bureaucrats are, you are not led by the nose by staff or by lobbyists, you are not led by the nose by special interests.
Mr. SCOTT. Let me follow up on this, Mr. McCollum.
You indicated after only a couple of years you would not be ready for chairmanship of major committees. What are the shortcomings of a person who has served only a year or two, what are their shortcomings?
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Well, I think the shortcoming is simply the education level. You get into a committee that works, such as this Judiciary Committee haseven the subcommittee you are serving on nowin constitutional law; and the amount of knowledge one needs in order to be able to vote is at one level and the amount of knowledge one needs to be able to lead and to be very deeply aware of all the information that is needed in order, in my judgment, be a good chairman is a different matter.
That is even more true as you move along the progress toward the leadership group that you are talking about that is going to lead the body as a whole.
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You can debate whether it is 4 years, 6 years, 8 years, 10 years, 12 years. I just personally think saying a 6-year limit is wrong because then you will have most subcommittee chairmen somewhere in the neighborhood of at the end of 2 years probably; and in 4 years, the person becomes a chairman. And the full committee chairman, as somebody who has been here for 4 years, is going to be the Speaker.
I do not know that you could not do it technically, but there will be very few extraordinary individuals, and I do not think that makes for a good sum. I think you need longer than that, in all honesty.
Mr. SCOTT. Without term limits, the ranking minority member of the Constitution Subcommittee was the ranking minority member after 2 years. It is not unusual without the term limits for people to get in leadership positions after 2 years. What term limits would do, it would mean there would be a lot more people in that situation.
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman may have 1 additional minute.
Mr. SCOTT. Let me ask Mrs. Fowler, since she appears to want to respond.
You indicated to the question of the wanted retroactivity that if we have retroactivity, no one is leaving here for 7 or 8 years anyway.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. FOWLER. That was my point, Mr. Scott, because during Mr. Barton's testimony, he made it appear that his was the only one that people would leave immediately. That is not correct. In the constitutional amendment, as we all know, it has to go to the States and would take at least 7 years probably to be ratified.
Mr. HYDE. Would the gentlelady yield?
Mrs. FOWLER. Yes.
Mr. HYDE. Why would it take 7 years? This is such a popular amendment that is in such demand. I could see 7 months. ERA, you know, was adopted like wildfire until the very end, when a little thought was given.
Mrs. FOWLER. Mr. Chairman, we do have some State legislatures that only meet every other year, some who have already met. So it depends on the timeframe when it passes.
But I was going to comment, Mr. Scott, the chairman of this subcommittee took over as chairman after serving only 2 years in the Congress. He has done a very good job. I think the question is not how long you serve, but it is incumbent on each of us to encourage qualified people to run for office.
If you elect someone who is willing to work hard, who is honest and qualified, they can do a good job whether they have been here 2 years, 4 years, 10 years; and I think the chairman of this subcommittee is proof of that. So I have a little disagreement with my friend, Mr. McCollum, on this as to how long you have to serve in order to do a good job of chairing it.
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I think the point here is the diversity of this Congress; it is giving the ability to bring in new people. The vast majority of women and minorities that have been elected to office were elected to open seats. It is very difficult to run against and beat an incumbent. If we go to term limits, which will probably end up being 12 years at some point in time, when those get adopted, then I think you will see more people willing to run for office. And we need to encourage them to because there are a lot of good people in this country that need the opportunity to come up here and serve the public and perform their public service.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Can I add to that, just to say what the average is about?
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman's time will be extended by 1 minute.
Mr. BARTON. I also have a comment on that.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Just to add one comment. I think we are dealing with all of these on the average overall. There are exceptional people here todayMr. Hyde, Mr. Dingellwhose motives and whose attitudes I do not question, who have been here for a long period of time. But I think term limits as a whole are good for the body. They may not be subject to the same stresses I have described, but on average, I think they are.
The same is true of being qualified as a committee or subcommittee chairman. There are exceptions to that, but as a general rule, I think it is better for the bodies to have that opportunity to have longer service before you get people into those positions.
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Mr. BARTON. I want to comment that if you have retroactivity, whatever the ratification period is, it kicks in 12 years sooner. And as the distinguished Chairman pointed out, if the State legislatures ratify within 7 months, then the Dingell-Barton term limit bill would be effective in the next Congress, period.
I would also point out if we sent it to the States for ratification, we could immediately pass implementation language which would require retroactivity immediately. So even in the worst case, the retroactive position of the Dingell-Barton bill is effective 12 years sooner than any other term limit bill, and in the best case, it could be effective 19 years sooner.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to ask another question, but
Mr. CANADY. The gentleman has 30 additional seconds. We need to get to the second panel.
Mr. SCOTT. One additional idea was brought up, that more people could run, and we have not addressed the issue. Maybe we will get into it on the next panel, of who can afford to come in 6 years and then go back.
One of the suggestions is that corporate executives sent by their employer might be the best for this, and I am not sure whether that is best for the country and whether or not there is a peculiar set of people that could afford that kind of service. I do not want to get into a dialogue, but it is an issue, hopefully, the next panel might address.
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Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Scott. And again we thank all the members of this panel for your helpful comments.
We will now move to the second panel and I will ask the members of the second panel to prepare to come forward and take your seats.
I want to welcome all of you to this hearing today. Testimony from our second panel will begin with George Will. Mr. Will is a nationally syndicated columnist and founding member of the panel of ABC's ''This Week on Sunday Mornings.'' He is also the author of three political theory books, including ''Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy.''
Next, Prof. John Hibbing will testify. He is professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has authored several articles and books on Congress, public opinion and voting behavior.
Then we will hear from Congressman Bill Frenzel, who formerly represented the State of Minnesota. He is currently a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
Mr. Paul Jacob is the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, a national organization committed to limiting terms in office for politicians at the Federal, State, and local level.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Testimony from Mr. Thomas Mann will follow. He is director of the governmental studies program and the W. Averell Harriman Senior Fellow of American Governance, at the Brookings Institution. He has authored several scholarly articles on various aspects of American politics.
Finally, we will hear from Mrs. Cleta Mitchell, who is the director and general counsel of Americans Back in Charge Foundation and its legal project, the Term Limits Legal Institute. She has been a leader in the national movement to limit the terms of Members of Congress for several years.
Without objection, your full statements will be made a part of the record, and I would ask that each of you to attempt to summarize your testimony in 5 minutes or less.
Again, we are very pleased that you have agreed to be with us here today.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Will.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE WILL, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND TELEVISION COMMENTATOR
Mr. WILL. Mr. Chairman, I thank the subcommittee for extending to me, for a second time, the privilege of revisiting arguments for legislative term limits. It is always fun to be an amiable affliction to my friend, Congressman Hyde, by disturbing his serenity by deploring the glistening arguments for a proposal he considers anathema. And it is timely, in the wake of recent political turbulence, to hold the arguments for term limits up to the bright light cast by recent events.
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I do not intend fully to rehearse the arguments for term limits here. As you say, I have done so at considerable, not to say excruciating, length in a book, ''Restoration: Congress, Term Limits, and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy.'' Amazingly, there are some unsold copies, and I will be glad to provide some for members of the committee.
My support for term limits is unlike the support of many others in two particulars: First, I favor term limits not because of hostilities toward, or suspicion of, Congress, but rather because of an abiding affection for the institution that first brought me to Washington. And because of a belief that once was central to American conservatism, a belief in congressional supremacy within our system of separation of powers.
It seems a reasonable surmise that term limits would result in a bolder, less risk-averse membership of Congress. And it seems equally reasonable to conclude that such a membership would earn for Congress a public esteem which, joined with the institution's constitutional advantages, would temper and even reverse the drift toward Presidential government that has occurred since the fourth decade of this century.
Furthermore, I believe term limits are desirable in the context of the modern State, not in order to bring Congress ''closer to the people,'' but rather to open some ''constitutional distance'' between the electorate and its representatives, the better to encourage a more deliberative legislative life.
For the foreseeable futureand here I think I address something Mr. Conyers raised a moment ago, what in particular might be improved by term limitsfor the foreseeable future the Federal Government will be preoccupied with the problem of making the existing welfare state entitlements compatible with demographic imperatives. This problem is more politically than intellectually daunting. For example, the solvency of the Social Security system far into the next century can be assured by modest, incremental changesadjustments in the calculation of the CPI, or gently phased increases in the retirement age. However, the task is only politically daunting because the careerism of many legislators renders them susceptible to paralysis in the face of threats of intense, organized and clamorous factions.
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Term limitation is a surgical and Madisonian reform. It simply removes one motive for entering public life and for behaving in particular ways in public life: the motive of careerism. By eliminating the possibility of a legislative career of indefinite longevity, it decisively alters the array of interests that legislators will have and to which they will respond.
Term limitation remains a recipe for independence and for an end to the subordination of all judgments to the task of securing office. Such independence is a necessary precondition for a truly deliberative legislature.
Because I do not consider the principal rationale for term limits to be the problem of invulnerable incumbents, my argument for term limits is not vulnerable to the fact there has recently been considerable ''rotation in office.''
To use the language of the founding era. However, the very fact that a majority of House Members were first elected in this decade, far from troubling the case for term limits, refutes one of the arguments against limits. It refutes the argument that limits would saddle a Congress with so much inexperience that the public interest would necessarily suffer. Do the people who make that argument follow the logic of their position and also argue that the 105th Congress is inherently incompetent for its tasks?
The great departments of the executive branch are routinely entrusted to the kind of people whom opponents of term limits deride as ''rookies,'' to Cabinet members who come to their departments without prior experience there and serve 4 or, at most, 8 years and then depart. It is, to say no more, implausible to argue that the executive departments operating under de facto term limits at the top, are crippled thereby.
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What we are dealing with here, I insist, simply is a constitutional amendment. If the small, strategically placed minority will not even send this amendment to the States for ratification debates, if this minority uses its power to prevent a continent-wide deliberation about this important matter, Congress will render itself guilty of simply being a faction and interest group unto itself.
I would conclude with one question. Is there any measure in the country so broadly, deeply and protractedly supported by the American people, any other measure that this Congress will not act favorably on?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Will.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Will follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF GEORGE WILL, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND TELEVISION COMMENTATOR
Mr. Chairman, I thank the subcommittee for extending to me, for a second time, the privilege of revisiting the argument for legislative term limits. It is always fun to be an amiable affliction to my friend Congressman Hyde by disturbing his serenity with praise for a proposal that he considers anathema. And it is timely, in the wake of recent political turbulence, to hold the arguments for term limits up to the bright light cast by recent events.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do not intend fully to rehearse the arguments for term limits. This I have done at considerablesome would say excruciatinglength in a book, ''Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy.'' Amazingly, there are some unsold copies, and I would be happy to provide some to members of the committee.
My support for term limits is unlike the support of many others in two particulars.
First, I favor term limits not because of hostility toward, or suspicion of, Congress, but rather because of an abiding affection for the institution that first brought me to Washington. And because of a belief that once was central to American conservatism, a belief in congressional supremacy within our system of separation of powers.
It seems a reasonable surmise that term limits would result in a bolder less risk-averse membership of Congress. And it seems equally reasonable to conclude that such a membership would earn for Congress a public esteem which, joined with the institution's constitutional advantages, would temper and even reverse the anticonstitutional drift toward presidential government that has occurred since the fourth decade of this century.
Furthermore, I believe term limits are desirable in the context of the modern state not in order to bring Congress ''closer to the people'' but rather to open some ''constitutional distance'' (the phrase is from Prof. Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University) between the electorate and its representatives, the better to encourage a more deliberative legislative life.
For the foreseeable future the federal government will be preoccupied with the problem of making existing welfare state entitlements compatible with demographic imperatives. This problem is more politically than intellectually daunting. For example, the solvency of the Social Security system far into the next century can be assured by modest, incremental changesadjustment of the calculation of the CPI, or phased increases in the retirement age. (Consider this: If at the outset, in 1935, the retirement age had been indexed to life expectancy, the retirement age would be approximately 73, and ''fixing'' Social Security would not be on the national agenda.) However, the task is only politically daunting because the careerism of many legislators renders them susceptible to the threats of intense, organized and clamorous factions.
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Term limitation is a surgical and Madisonian reform. It simply removes one motive for entering public life and for behaving particular ways in public lifethe motive of careerism. By eliminating the possibility of a legislative career of indefinite longevity, it decisively alters the array of interests that legislators will have and to which they will respond.
Term limitation remains a recipe for independence, for an end to the subordination of all judgments to the task of securing office. Such independence is a necessary precondition for a truly deliberative legislature.
Because I do not consider the principle rationale for term limits to be the problem of invulnerable incumbents, my argument for term limits is not vulnerable to the fact of that there has recently been considerable ''rotation in office,'' to use the language of the Founding era. Actually, the vast majority of incumbents seeking re-election to Congress were victorious in 1994 (91 percent) and 1996 (94 percent). But never mind.
However, the very fact that a majority of House members were first elected in this decade, far from troubling the case for term limits, refutes one of the arguments against limits. It refutes the argument that limits would saddle the Congress with so much inexperience that the public interest would necessarily suffer. Do the people who make that argument follow the logic of their position and also argue that the 105th Congress is inherently incompetent for its tasks?
But their argument is facilely foolish. The great departments of the executive branch are routinely entrusted to the kind of people whom opponents of term limits deride as ''rookies''to cabinet members who come to their departments without prior experience there and who serve four years, or at most eight, and then depart. It is, to say no more, implausible to argue that the executive departments, operating under de facto term limits at the top, are crippled thereby.
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Mr. Chairman, American history teaches that when a substantial and durable majority desires a particular reform for a long time, the reform occurs. Can anyone here think of any measure other than term limitation that today enjoys such broad support, yet meets such resistance in Congress?
Some say that term limitation is a reform that will prove to be an exception to the happy working of majority rule because this reform requires self-sacrifice on the part of a small, strategically-placed minoritythose who hold office and hope to do so indefinitely. If so, Congress will strike at the roots of its source of strength, the perception that it is more thanbetter thanjust another self-interested faction.
What is at issue is a proposed constitutional amendment. If the small, strategically-placed minority will not even send this amendment to the states for ratification debatesif this minority uses its power to prevent continent-wide deliberations about this important matterthen Congress will itself come to seem like little more than an interest group. That will mean a draining away of public esteem, and with it the end of something desirablea firm restoration of Congress as the focus of our national political life.
Mr. CANADY. Professor Hibbing.
STATEMENT OF JOHN R. HIBBING, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN
Mr. HIBBING. It is an honor to address this panel on an issue of such major importance. Thank you for inviting me. I will urge you to do what you can to keep the terms of Members of Congress from being limited to a set number.
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I was going to organize my talk around three points, but Mr. Scott just highlighted one of those points, which is that the supporters of term limits have two quite different philosophies: was as stated eloquently by George Will when he spoke of increasing the social distance and the constitutional space that Congress might need in which to legislate. On the other side, the U.S. term limit movement sometimes speaks of decreasing this space so, that we need to make Congress comes in closer touch with the American public. So I am a little concerned. I believe before we enshrine something in the Constitution of the United States we should expect the champions of that reform to know what it is they want to accomplish. But I will focus on the two remaining points: the value of increased new congressional experience and the extent to which term limits would alter the public's opinion of Congress.
The term limit movement believes it is important to have a constant infusion of new blood in Congress lest the body become stale and set in its ways. This is a valid point. At its core, term limits would alter the mix of junior and senior Members. And people today have said, let us not personalize this, so I will try to give a few facts about the general contributions made by junior as opposed to senior Members.
Rollcall behavior, for example, is amazingly stable across congressional careers, as I am sure the Members are aware. Most people who are liberals at the beginning of their service are liberals at the end. Most conservatives are still conservative. The notion that somehow Members develop a different pattern and become out of touch with their constituents does not seem to withstand analysis.
Senior Members are just as likely to be defeated in elections as junior members. This is a big change from the case 20 to 30 years ago. Junior Members used to be vulnerable and would become safe only as their tenure wore on. This is no longer true. Senior Members are now just as likely as junior Members to lose their seats. So the concept they are electorally unchallengeable after a certain number of years does not follow.
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Senior Members go home almost as often. They go back to their district. They work hard at this. There is a slight diminution in tendency to travel home, but not much.
Senior Members are not more likely to be caught in scandals. In proportion, it is almost perfect, that is, the chances. The odds of a junior Member being caught in a scandal are just as great as that for a senior Member. So the vision of an inert, inept, uncaring, electorally unchallenged senior Member is not accurate. On all these points, senior and junior Members are just about the same.
This statement does not apply, however, when attention shifts to legislative activities, that is, actually formulating and passing legislation. Here, substantial differences exist between junior and senior Members. Senior Members, it turns out, are the heart and soul of the legislative process. They are more active on legislation. They are more specialized; that is, a greater portion of their legislative attention goes to a focused, substantive area. And they are more efficient. A greater percentage of their legislation becomes law.
These patterns, I might add, persist even when senior Members do not become leaders of committees or subcommittees. So it is not that they have a more powerful position. The reasons for altered legislative contributions are broader and, I submit, have to do with increased legislative experience.
I would be the first to admit that many of these indicators of legislative involvement are badly flawed. As you Members know better than anyone, the legislative process is too rich and subtle to be captured by counting speeches or calculating legislative batting averages. Nonetheless, until we get better measures, it can be said with some confidence that, senior Members have more active, focused, and successful legislative agendas.
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Junior Members tend to introduce bills on topics about which they know very little. The difference is, their bills have little chance of making it out of committee, let alone becoming law. These are empirical facts. We need more senior Members, not fewer.
Here, I think Madison was quite prescient when he said in Federalist No. 62, ''It is not possible that an assembly of men, called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature and continued in appointment for a short time, should escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust.''
Let me conclude with just a couple of remarks about the public's opinion of Congress, because many have put forward today the notion that we need to enact term limits because the public wants us to and because it would improve the perception of Congress on the part of the public.
This is something I have spent a great deal of time on in the last couple of years. It does not mean I have it right, but I will tell you what I think.
People believe Congress has been captured by special interests, extremist parties, and professionalized politicians, and that ordinary folks have been lost in the shuffle. The only way we can restore public confidence, some argue, is to enact term limits, because they are central to the public's populist agenda. I disagree.
Much public unrest stems from the belief that Congress creates conflict. The common notion is, agreement exists among the masses, but when the aforementioned special interests, parties, and politicians come together in and around Congress, they manage to construct disagreement where it need not exist. The truth of the matter is, most of the time Congress is only reflecting the people's diverse views.
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Survey research indicates clearly that people are deeply divided about how to solve almost every major societal problem. These disagreements would exist whether or not term limits were in fact enacted. In fact, I contend the public would be even more disillusioned than they currently are once they saw that political conflict would continue unabated long after term limits were enacted.
The real solution is to educate people on the extent of their own disagreements and on the difficulties faced by elected officials in moving from these disagreements to responsible brokered solutions.
People harbor beliefs that term limits will be able to reduce the conflict, arguing, and dealmaking that they find so objectionable. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather than pretending there is a magic solution to political conflict, we need to help people appreciate the inevitability of conflict in a society such as ours and the necessity of having learned, experienced legislators working their way through the challenging assignment of coming to agreement in the face of public ignorance and uncertainty.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hibbing follows:]
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN R. HIBBING, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN
It is an honor to address this panel on an issue of such importance to American government. Thank you for inviting me. Today I urge you to do what you can to keep the terms of members of Congress from being limited to a set number. I will organize my case against term limits around three points: the value of congressional experience, the uncertain consequences of term limits for representation, and the inability of term limits to improve the public's opinion of Congress.
Congressional experience. The term limit movement believes it is important to have a constant infusion of ''new blood'' in Congress lest the body become stale and set in its ways. Opponents of term limits worry that too much new blood would lead to a decrease in both legislative quality and institutional memory as inexperienced members wrestle with devilishly complex issues. Which side is correct? What is the optimal level of membership turnover for an institution like Congress? Most of the debate on these questions has proceeded without any firm evidence for the value of congressional experience. I would like to interject some evidence now.
About 10 years ago, I attempted to determine the manner in which members of this house changed as their careers in Congress unfolded. I found that, with a few exceptions of course, most members did not change much ideologically. Liberals stayed liberal and conservatives stayed conservative. Early career roll call patterns were good predictors of late career roll call patterns. Surprisingly, perhaps, early career electoral results were also good predictors of late career electoral results. It is not the case that many members transform marginal seats into safe seats. The chances of losing office because of an election are nearly as great for senior members as they are for junior members. Attention to the district, as measured by the number of trips home, diminishes with increasing tenure but only by a little. Most senior members work quite hard at maintaining a presence in the district. Finally, the odds of a member being involved in some type of scandalous behavior do not increase with tenure. Junior members are just as likely as senior members to be scandal-ridden. The popular vision of an inert, uncaring, corrupt, and electorally unchallengeable senior member is simply inaccurate. On each of these counts, senior members are almost no different from junior members.
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This statement does not apply, however, when attention shifts to legislative activity, that is, actually formulating and passing legislation. Here I found substantial differences between junior and senior members. Senior members, it turns out, are the heart and the soul of the legislative process. They are more active on legislation (giving speeches, offering amendments, and sponsoring bills), they are more specialized (a greater portion of their legislative attention goes to a focused substantive area), and they are more efficient (a greater percentage of their legislation becomes law). These patterns, I might add, persist even when senior members do not become leaders on committees or subcommittees, so it is not just that member activity reflects the positions of power that some senior members hold. The reasons for altered legislative contributions are broader than that and have to do, simply, with increased legislative experience.
Now, I will be the first to admit that many of these indicators of legislative involvement are badly flawed. It is impossible to measure quantitatively a representative's overall legislative contribution. As members know better than anyone, the legislative process is too rich and subtle to be captured by counting speeches or calculating legislative batting averages. But we must try to understand the relative contributions of senior members if we are to know the consequences of statutorily prohibiting the service of senior members, and here it can be said with some confidence that senior members have more active, focused, and successful legislative agendas. Junior members tend to introduce bills on topics about which they know very little. The subject matter of these bills is all over the map and the bills have precious little chance of malting it out of committee let alone becoming law. These are empirical facts. We need more senior members; not fewer.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Uncertainty about consequences. Many people support the term limit movement because they believe it would make members more responsive to the people. The argument is that Congress has grown out of touch and that if members served only short time periods, along the lines of the citizen legislatures of old, they would be more in touch with the needs and concerns of ordinary people. But there are others who support the term limit movement for exactly the opposite reason. George Will is probably the best-known proponent of the position that term limits should be enacted in order to make Congress less sensitive to the desires of ordinary people. Will and others believe that mandatory term limits would embolden representatives, giving them the nerve to go against public opinion. Only when members know their stint in Congress will soon end, the argument is, will members stop pandering to unrealistic public demands for both lower taxes and more government services.
I do not know which side is correct about the consequences of term limits for the proximity of Congress to the people but I do know that the inability of those in the term limit movement to agree amongst themselves on whether Congress is too close or not close enough to the people together with their inability to know whether term limits would in actuality reduce or increase the distance between the people and their Congress should give us pause. Before we enshrine a reform in the Constitution of the United States, should we not at least expect the champions of that reform to know what they want to accomplish?
Public opinion of Congress. My current research interests have to do with the reasons the public tends to be displeased with Congress. People believe Congress has been captured by special interests, extremist parties, and professionalized politicians and that ordinary folks have been lost in the shuffle. They want changes that would restore the public's role in the process. The only way we can restore public confidence in Congress, some reformers argue, is to enact measures, like term limits, that are central to the public's populist agenda.
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It is my belief that term limits would not improve the public's opinion of Congress in the long run. Much public unrest stems from the belief that Congress creates conflict. The common notion is that agreement exists among the masses but that when special interests, parties, and ambitious politicians come together in Congress they manage to construct disagreement where it need not exist. But the truth of the matter is that, while interest groups, parties, and politicians sometimes create conflict, most of the time they only reflect the people's diverse views. Survey research indicates clearly that people are deeply divided over how to solve almost every major societal problem. This disagreement would exist whether or not term limits were enacted. In fact, I contend the public would be even more disillusioned than they are currently once they saw political conflict continuing unabated long after term limits were enacted.
The real solution is to educate people on the extent of their own disagreements and on the difficulties faced by elected officials in moving from these disagreements to responsible, brokered solutions to problems. People harbor beliefs that reforms such as term limits will be able to reduce conflict and the accompanying deliberation (bickering) and compromise (selling out) that they find so objectionable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than pretending there is a magic solution to political conflict, we need to educate the people on the necessity of having learned, experienced legislators who can work their way through the challenging assignment of coming to agreement in the face of public ignorance and uncertainty. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Congressman Frenzel.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF BILL FRENZEL, GUEST SCHOLAR, GOVERNMENTAL STUDIES PROGRAM, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
Mr. FRENZEL. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to come before this distinguished subcommittee to be reminded of how pleasant my lot has been for the past 6 years.
First, I must make the usual disclaimer that the views presented here are my own, both oral and written, and not those of the Brookings Institution.
I introduced my first term limits constitutional amendment in 1971, shortly after I was elected. It was not a big deal in those days, nobody cared, and for 20 years I pushed it in a less than vigorous manner to no fruitful purpose. But gradually it has come along and now enjoys enormous popular support.
I think it is important to define what we are telling you to do and what we are telling you not to do here. There are many forms of this concept. My constitutional amendments were always 18-year amendments. We were all sissies in those days, many years ago, and now the purists would like to take you down to 8 or 6 or whatever.
My own judgment is that 12 is a nice, round number. Somewhere in between probably allows you enough scope. And I believe that broken service should be permitted and so should service in the other House, if that tickles your fancy. I do not believe in retroactivity.
I believe term limits is a useful constitutional amendment. It is not a hair shirt. We are not trying to flog any Congressmen. I think we should not try to make it punitive. I think it should be something reasonable. If it takes a little longer to achieve it, that is all right. We are talking about very long timeframes here. It took us 180 years before we were able to term limit the Chief Executive of this country.
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To me, Mr. Chairman, most of the argumentation about term limits has not been interesting. It is the kind of thing you hear on the floor when you are the last speaker in an 8-hour debate and everybody else has said the good things.
I take the Fred Thompson position. I believe that the Congress or the Members of Congress have become immortal. It is almost impossible to beat them unless you can find 200 rubber checks or their hand in this cookie jar somewhere.
And I note that, even recently, when the public is said to be very tired of its Congress and disappointed in it, the Congressmen in this body still got reelected with considerably more than 90 percent regularity. It is monotonous. It is inevitable. And we do not need to go through the reasons, therefore. But I suggest that if any of you tried to recruit people to run for other than open seats, you will know that potential challengers are not silly. They know their odds, and usually good people are not stepping up to challenge incumbents.
The arguments on the other side, I consider to be not persuasive either. We are told it limits choice. Yes, but the Framers gave us three limitations before we ever came to this one. And if you accept my concept of term limits, it is a very modest, tiny price to pay for a really important asset, which is the electing of other qualified people in our various districts to serve if they should want to run.
I again urge you not to be punitive. I would also suggest it is not a good idea to send up dozens of alternatives. Obviously, none of them is going to achieve the necessary two-thirds. And take the time you need to get there. Take the right solution and present that. Give the Congress a chance to work its will, and let the people see what the Congress has wrought.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Frenzel follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF BILL FRENZEL, GUEST SCHOLAR, GOVERNMENTAL STUDIES PROGRAM, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished Subcommittee in support of Congressional Term Limits, an attractive butterfly I have chased unsuccessfully for many years. First, however, I must make usual disclaimer that the views presented here are my own, not those of the Brookings Institution.
I introduced my first Term Limits Constitutional Amendment soon after I was sworn in January of 1971. Any Term Limits proposal sounded fierce in those days, but, in fact, mine was a sissified 18 year version. I introduced it each biennium thereafter, always seeking co-sponsorship from my colleagues. In 20 years, only one signed up. Sometime in that period I testified before a crowd of two at a desultory hearing in the Senate. Obviously, Term Limits was not the stuff of legislative dreams in those days.
But, the worm turned. In the 90's, the issue picked up some smarter proponents; state referenda were passed; the idea began to attract the support of a strong majority of Americans. I suspect that support peaked sometime in 1994 when the public became very impatient with what it saw under the Capitol dome. Support, and certainly intensity, may be on the wane now, but the issue is still lively. Term Limits still polls well, and old friends, like myself, remain steadfast in their support of the concept.
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First, we ought to define the concept. Purists like short Term Limits, but versions under 12 years are asking for trouble. Short terms look extreme, probably because they are extreme. But my old 18 year model won't work, either. It fails the excitement test. 12 years is a nice round number, and, for those who want action rather than an issue, the one most likely to succeed.
Other conditions should not be unnecessarily restrictive. Persons should be able to move to the other body when their time is up in one chamber, and should be able to run for the same chamber again after broken service. The idea is restoremortality, and accountability, to Congress. It is not necessary to be punitive, to abuse legislators, or to destroy the legislature. Term Limits should neither be a hair shirt nor an instrument of torture.
After the definition comes the argumentation. I don't want to start any fights, but I really believe that most of the arguments I read and hear on both sides of this debate are not terribly persuasive Term Limits will neither perfect the Republic, nor tsar it to pieces. For me, there is one overpowering argument for Term Limits, and one interesting argument against. The rest of the usual pros and cons seem to range from fun debating points to personal speculation.
For me, the clincher has always been that without Term Limits, the Congress is immortal. Even in recent years, after bank scandals, the Keating Five, and whatever else is happening now to bruise the people's confidence in its Congress, incumbents have been, and are being, reelected with relentless regularity. Because many of us have been beneficiaries of that system, we all know the success ratios.
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It is, of course, possible for incumbents to lose. But, usually those rare losses require a massive redistricting, 200 rubber checks, a conviction, or some other egregious hand-in-the-cookie jar event.
A Member of Congress who can't be defeated is not accountable. In my judgment, lack of accountability is a plague on Congress' house which is worse than ethics problems, worse than campaign financing, and worse than polarizing party squabbling.
It is of course possible that Congress could sell its recording studios, restrict the Frank to answering letters received, fire the 2/3s of its staff it doesn't need for legislative purposes, close its District offices, and do all the other things necessary to eliminate its overwhelming election advantages. But, that is very unlikely, and, in todays circumstances, House incumbents would still probably win anyway.
It is also possible that Members will begin to resume the 19th century rates of retirement, but that, too, is unlikely. Here I add, parenthetically, that neither retirements after 2040 years, nor the fact that a large proportion of the House has less than three terms of service, are signs of hope for accountability.
I won't call the roll of the difficulties challengers face, but it is worth noting that capable challengers are not stupid. They know their chances are minuscule until the incumbent drops dead, or retires, more likely the former than the latter. Incumbent reelection success rates remain high even at times of great public rejection of government. Watergate and other scandals don't seem to affect the monotonous reelection rates of incumbents.
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One of the almost certain, and surely popular, side effects of Term Limits is, that in restoring accountability, it will also add significant career risk. The professional, full-time fully-staffed Legislator whose reelection is now as sure as shooting ducks in a barrel will face significant risks. This group may not become extinct, but it will require an extraordinary combination of skill, timing and luck to serve in Congress for 3040 years. Unsurprisingly, Incumbents find this aspect of Term Limits distasteful.
The contrary argument, against Term Limits, I find most interesting is that it limits the choice of the voter. Most people would stipulate that, I do. That might make folks nervous had not the Framers, in the very beginning, already imposed 3 limitations on the voters. Nobody ever complains much about them, and so I consider the small restriction of choice imposed by Term Limits a tiny price to pay for making the Congress mortal.
The voters can elect another representative of about the same philosophical height and weight as the termed-out predecessor. In addition, under Term Limits as I define it, those voters may well get another shot at their House hero or heroine in a run for the Senate, or a later run for the House. The limits on the voters are modest. They surely don't interfere with the processes of democracy, nor unduly frustrate voters' conservative or liberal urges. The choice that is limited is, in fact, a non-choice. It is merely the choice to vote yea or nay for an incumbent who will be reelected anyway.
Mr. Chairman, confining this statement to only two of the arguments in the Term Limits debate may disappoint those who feel strongly about other facets of the debate. I will, of course, respond to questions on any aspect of Term Limits. In any case, your hearings will surely provide a comprehensive discussion of the issue.
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I have no great passion for amending the Constitution. Bert Lance has always been my guide. However, as with our fiscal difficulties, something is broken and needs to be fixed. I hope this distinguished Subcommittee will begin the repair process promptly.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Jacob.
STATEMENT OF PAUL JACOB, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.S. TERM LIMITS
Mr. JACOB. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing on an issue that is of great importance to people across the country.
George Washington said in his farewell address, ''The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government.'' Today the vast majority of Americans want to amend their Constitution. They want congressional term limits of three terms in the House and two in the Senate.
Term limits is not a new idea. Americans support congressional term limits not only for what they hope will be the changes to the culture here in Congress, but also for what they have already seen in term limits at all levels of government. When the amendment process was debated originally in the Constitutional Convention, delegate George Byron of Pennsylvania warned, ''We shall never find two-thirds of a Congress voting for anything which shall derogate their own authority and importance.''
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Even with consistent and overwhelming public support, about three of four Americans believe Congress will refuse to propose a constitutional amendment for term limits. Why? Because Congress has a clear conflict of interest.
Now, most Members of Congress do support the concept of term limits and have for some time. After all, two-thirds of both Houses voted to term limit the President. More recently, in the last Congress, 355 Members of the House voted to limit committee chairs to three terms, yet many Members do not want the limits to apply to them.
This conflict of interest can also be found in some Members' demand that Congress, rather than the voters, should set the limit. In 1995, in the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Bobby Scott sought to clarify the intention of Congressman Bill McCollum and exposed that Mr. McCollum desired to strike down the 23 State laws then on the books to impose term limits. That the House GOP's point man on the issue would seek to preempt his own State's law, passed by a 77-percent vote, is a striking example of this conflict of interest at work.
The American people pro-term-limit scholars and virtually every State term limit group in the country supports a three-term limit in the House and a two-term limit in the Senate. A 1996 Fabrizio-McLaughlin poll of 1,000 adults, taken nationally, found supporters favored term limits of three terms over six terms by an 81-percent to a 16-percent margin.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman recognizes the congressional conflict of interest, but he also appreciates the ingenuity of the American people in declaring Congress is never, not in a million years, going to impose term limits on itself unless it has to.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After the House vote in 1995, the American people realized they had to take matters into their own hands, as they often have on this issue, and that is what they have done. This last election, nine States passed informed voter laws. The laws are very simple. First, they instruct Members of Congress to support a specific three/two term limit amendment that is written precisely in the initiative.
Secondly, these laws create a procedure for informing voters if their instructions on term limits are simply disregarded. If Members from these States fail to support the three/two amendment or attempt to enact watered down limits longer than three/two, the secretaries of States will inform the voters by printing ''disregarded voter instruction on term limits'' next to the names of incumbents on the ballot.
The response to these informed voter laws has been near universal shock and horror from the political establishment. What is there to cause such objection? These laws offer Congressmen nonbinding instructions from the people they work for and are charged with representing. The informational aspect of the initiative has been attacked as the ''scarlet letter,'' yet term limit enemies do not argue the information is inaccurate.
Do incumbents have a right to block truthful information harmful to them from the voting public? I submit there is no public good in promoting public ignorance on term limits.
Harry Truman was called ''Give'em Hell Harry,'' but Truman remarked, ''I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.''
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These informed voter laws, likewise, only tell the truth. With public knowledge, politicians lose their wiggle room on an issue that really matters to voters.
The American people want a constitutional amendment for a three-term limit in the House and a two-term limit in the Senate. As the great Englishman Edmund Burke said, ''In all forms of government the people are the true legislators.''
I ask you to put aside all political games and offer a proposal that the American people have endorsed. If this Congress chooses to vote it down, so be it. At least the American people will have a clean vote on real term limits.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Jacob.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Jacob follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PAUL JACOB, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.S. TERM LIMITS
Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing on an issue of great importance to people all across this country.
America has one clear and decisive advantage over the rest of the world: Our political system. Our system is unique a democratic republic with constitutional limits on the federal government. It's a system designed to maximize individual freedom and citizen control of government at all levels. Our forebears not only set up this system of protected freedoms, but also recognized the need for change, for continual reform, and for constitutional amendment in order to preserve and enhance our freedom.
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George Washington said in his farewell address, ''The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government.'' President Lincoln explained: ''The country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it.'' As Thomas Jefferson said to those who object to amending the Constitution, ''We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy.''
The vast majority of Americans today want to amend their constitution. They want congressional term limits of three terms for House members and two terms for Senators.
EXPERIENCE WITH TERM LIMITS
Term limits is not a new idea. Democracy as far back as Aristotle has known term limits, or rotation in office. Certainly our Founders appreciated rotation in office. John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson all spoke to the need for limited tenure in public office.
Today, term limits are the law of the land for the President, 40 state governors, 20 state legislatures and thousands of local elected officials including many large cities most notably New York and Los Angeles. Americans support congressional term limits not only for what they hope it will do to the culture in Congress, but for what it has already done at other levels of government.
According to Jody Newman, former head of the National Women's Political Caucus, ''Our political system is tremendously biased in favor of incumbents.'' While this has slowed the progress of women and minorities into elected office, term limits are helping to bring more women, minorities and people from all walks of life into politics. This has been the case in cities like New Orleans and Kansas City where record numbers of minorities now hold office as well as the legislature in California which, according to the Los Angeles Times, now includes ''a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, a former sheriff-coroner, a paralegal, a retired teacher, a video store owner, a businesswoman-homemaker, a children's advocate, an interior designer ... and a number of businessmen.''
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Term limits are bringing more competition, and arguably fairer competition. A recent study by Kermit Daniel of the University of Pennsylvania and Joan R. Lott of the University of Chicago concluded: ''California's legislative term limits have dramatically reduced campaign expenditures, while at the same time that more candidates are running for office and races are becoming more competitive. The changes are so large that more incumbents are being defeated, races are closer, more candidates are running, and there are fewer single candidate races than at any other time in our sample.''
In Ohio, state legislative term limits were credited with helping pass serious ethics reform. ''Term limits established a kind of public-interest momentum'' according to Ohio Common Cause executive director Janet Lewis, whose group had led the fight against term limits. Robert McCord, a columnist with the Arkansas Times declared ''the Arkansas House of Representatives has been reborn'' after the state's voters enacted a six-year House limit and representatives were quick to dismantle the seniority system.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence abounds that term limits have reduced partisanship, gridlock, and special interest influence. At the same time, more people are running for office, additional reforms are following in the term limits wake, and the disastrous predictions of opponents are being quietly forgotten.
Unfortunately, Congress continues to be locked in partisan warfare, ethics problems, and largely uncompetitive elections. Congress needs term limits.
CONGRESS HAS A CONFLICT OF INTEREST
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When the amendment process of the Constitution was originally debated, delegate George Byron of Pennsylvania had tremendous vision. He saw the potential of a congressional conflict of interest and warned, ''We shall never find two-thirds of a Congress voting for anything which shall derogate from their own authority and importance.''
Even with consistent and overwhelming public support, about three out of four Americans believe Congress will refuse to propose a constitutional amendment for term limits. Why? Because Congress has a clear conflict of interest. Term limits is about limiting you your personal power and the power of any individual who takes your place in our system.
Most members of Congress do support the concept of term limits and have for some time. After all, Congress voted by two-thirds of both Houses to propose the Twenty-Second Amendment limiting the President to two terms, eight years, in office. More recently (in the 104th Congress), 355 members of the House voted to limit committee chairs to three terms. Yet, while supporting and imposing the concept on others, many members do not want limits to apply to them personally.
The congressional conflict of interest results in many members of Congress favoring limits twice as generous as most voters, that is, if they favor any limits at all. Congress has also shown a tremendous ability for political maneuvering on the issue.
Last Congress, the House of Representatives failed to represent their constituents as term limits were defeated by outright opponents and ''loved to death'' by some questionable friends. The three-term House limit enacted by 15 states and supported by gigantic percentages of voters was opposed by a majority of Republicans, as well as Democrats. Only the freshman Republicans were in sync with the wishes of the American people 72 percent voting for a three-term limit, a constitutional majority itself demonstrating the benefit of regular rotation in office.
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This conflict also can be found in some members' demand that Congress, rather than the voters, set the limits. As David Mason of the Heritage Foundation wrote, ''At a February 28  House Judiciary Committee mark-up session on these proposals, a coalition of opponents and wavering supporters amended the McCollum bill, so that it ... explicitly would preempt state term limit laws (the original bill was silent on state powers).'' What Mr. Mason didn't report was Representative McCollum proposed this amendment to his own bill that would have specifically struck down the shorter term limit imposed on him by the voters of Florida. That the House GOP's point-man on the issue would seek to preempt his own state's term limit law passed by a 77 percent vote is a striking example of his conflict of interest.
The commitment of the House Republican Leadership, especially Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been the subject of much doubt. Television producer Brian Boyer, who spent a great deal of time with Gingrich while filming a 1995 documentary, said, ''It was very surprising, and this was, remember, from very long conversations with Gingrich, to learn that he personally is not in favor of term limits.'' Gingrich's spokesperson Tony Blankley told the American Spectator in July of 1994 that term limits was ''something conceptually [Newt] doesn't like.'' Columnist Robert Novak wrote in the Washington Post, ''Republican leaders profess to want 12 years, but it is clear they prefer no limits at all.''
A number of Republicans in the leadership voted against every term limit bill as did five committee chairs. Only one member of the leadership, Majority Leader Dick Armey, and only one committee chair voted for the three-term House limit passed by most states. Yet while Mr. Armey said he would have stripped a member of a committee chairmanship had theylike Senator Mark Hatfieldvoted against the Balanced Budget Amendment, there was no such pressure brought to bear for term limits.
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Freshman Michael Forbes of New York told the New York Times after the failed House vote, ''Candidly, this leadership didn't want [term limits] anymore than the old leadership did.'' But the American people were not fooled a Washington Post/ABC News poll found close to two-thirds believe neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress really tried to pass term limits.
THREE TERMS VS. SIX TERMS
The question as to the proper length of the term limits is not merely: What should the limits be? Rather, the essential question is: Who should set the limits? U.S. Term Limits is dedicated to the proposition that the people, not Congress, should set the limits.
Some observers of the battle in Congress over whether House terms should be limited to three terms or six terms, have posited that the term limits movement is split. This is simply not the case. The term limits movement is strongly united behind three terms. Only in Congress (and especially among longtime members whose support for any limit whatsoever is questionable) is there significant approval of six terms and fierce opposition to three terms.
Throughout the rest of America, support for three terms far surpasses support for six terms. The American people, pro-limits scholars and virtually every state term limit group in the country supports a three-term limit in the House and a two-term limit in the Senate. Poll after poll demonstrates public support for three terms over six. A 1996 Fabrizio-McLaughlin poll of 1,000 adults nationally found supporters favored three terms 81 percent to 16 percent over six terms.
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Not surprisingly, election results bear this out. In every head to head vote three terms has won over six terms. Colorado voters went to the polls in 1994 and voted to lower their limits from six terms to three terms. The arguments in favor of a six-term House limit are so barren, that one such Beltway advocate brazenly and erroneously claims this is ''compelling'' evidence of support for the longer limit. Only in Washington.
South Dakota has voted on both a 12-year House limit and a 6-year House limit in separate elections where one would not replace the other. The 6-year limit received 68 percent of the vote to 63 percent for the 12-year limit. After the Wyoming Legislature voted to double its state House limits from three terms to six, voters said keep the three-term limit 54 to 46 percent. This even after the sitting governor and three former governors came out in favor of the longer limits.
In fact, the latest trend for politicians opposed to term limits is to pretend to favor term limits, but only longer ones like 12 Years. In New York City, Peter Vallone, Council President and adamant term-limit opponent, was unsuccessful in his attempt to defeat term limits in 1993. Just this past election, he sought to extend the limits from eight years to twelve years. Even with a purposely slanted and misleading ballot title, the voters saw through the council's scheme and rejected this term extension. The same effort to claim support for the term limits concept in order to extend the limits has been and is being repeated in many cities and states with term limits. The voters continue to oppose these term extensions.
The intellectual support for a shorter House limit is also very substantial. A working group of 31 scholars formed by Empower America in December of 1994 studied the term limits issue and concluded, ''We put term limits on our agenda, and would even go so far as to favor the specific proposal to limit terms to 6 years in the House and 12 in the Senate.''
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Mark Petracca, a professor at the University of California-Irvine and a leading scholar on limits, told Congress ''my preference is strongly for a limit less expansive than 12 years or 6 terms in the House.... A six-term or 12-year limit in the House ... won't do much to deprofessionalize the House. Neither may it do much to remedy the other exigencies driving the term limits movement.''
David M. Mason of the Heritage Foundation points to ''Senate-envy'' as the number one reason House members favor the much longer six-term limit and reminds us, ''The incumbents' plea for experience only echoes arguments of term limits opponents.''
Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee pointed out one of the reasons people oppose a six-term limit and support three terms. In his 1995 House and Senate testimony, he stated, ''Limiting House Members to six terms, instead of the three terms as I have proposed, would leave the seniority system intact and do little to level a playing field that has huge advantages for incumbents.'' Missouri Senator John Ashcroft recognizes a three-term limit would reduce the incentive for gerrymandering congressional districts for the benefit of incumbents, stating, ''it would be one of several benefits exclusive to the 3/2 term proposal ...''
Of the major Republican candidates for president in 1996, Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm, and Alan Keyes all supported a limit of three House terms. As Pat Buchanan told the Senate, ''Now, what about this 12-year proposal? Well, let me associate myself with what ... Lamar Alexander ... said. I am unalterably opposed to 12 years. I am for 6 years and out. I know that folks say let's treat both Houses the same way. But the Founding Fathers did not treat both Houses the same way.''
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There are a plethora of other important policy reasons for enacting a three-term limit as opposed to six terms. Three-term limits will mean greater turnover, more competitive elections, more and quicker campaign reform, and a larger dose of fiscal sanity. The ''Legislative Backgrounder'' attached as an appendix to this testimony details further evidence of the public policy benefits associated with a three-term rather than six-term limit.
In reality, many in Congress supposedly favoring a six-term limit appear to not support term limits at all. Representative Bill Barrett of Nebraska has supported the six-term McCollum bill, but wrote in 1995, ''I understand voters are frustrated and dissatisfied with the performance of Congress, but I doubt term limits are the answer.'' Another cosponsor of the McCollum bill is Representative David Camp of Michigan who like Barrett voted against the three-term limits passed in his state. Camp told the Michigan Midland Daily News [May 23, 1995], ''Voters understand that if they want to limit a member of Congress' term, they can vote for the opponent.'' These are not the statements of term limit enthusiasts.
In the face of popular and intellectual reasons that three-term limits are superior, the main argument advanced by the longer limit advocates in Congress is that they will simply refuse to support any limits shorter than 6 terms regardless of any support or rationale evidenced against them. This is presented as realism and practicality, but at its core it's the intellectual integrity of a hijacker. Congress in such a case is saying, ''The people may have right on their side, but we have the power to ignore them.''
INFORMED VOTER LAWS
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman recognizes the congressional conflict, but also appreciates the ingenuity of the American people in declaring, ''Congress is never, not in a million years, going to impose term limits on itselfunless it has to.''
After the vote in the House in 1995, the American people understood they would have to take matters into their own hands, and they did. The result? In 1996, nine states passed Informed Voter Lawssometimes called Term Limits Accountability Laws. These states are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota.
The laws are very simple. First, they instruct members of Congress to support a specific 3/2 term limits amendment written precisely in the initiative. With differing opinions among members of Congress in the past, and the built-in conflict of interest, the voters of these states seek to make the term limits amendment they want explicitly clear. [A copy of the language of Proposition 4 in Idaho is attached. Language in all nine states is essentially similar.]
Secondly, these laws create a procedure for informing the voters if their instructions on term limits are simply disregarded. If members from these states fail to support the 3/2 amendment or attempt to enact watered-down limits longer than 3/2, the Secretary of State will inform the voters by printing ''Disregarded voter instruction on term limits'' next to the incumbents' names on the ballot.
Candidates who are not incumbents are allowed to sign a pledge to abide by the voters' instructions when they file for the office. If they do not so pledge, the voters will again be informed by the Secretary of State printing ''Declined to pledge to support term limits'' next to their name on the ballot.
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Some will argue these laws are unconstitutional. The opponents of term limits have long used the lawsuit as their primary weapon. Already the voters are being sued by special interests and politicians in a number of states trying to overturn the people's vote. But let me suggest the courts will not save politician-kind this time.
Prior to the 1996 election, the Arkansas Supreme Court declared the state's Informed Voter Initiative unconstitutional and removed it from the ballot. The state court argued the measure would cause ''potential political deaths'' if elected officials did not heed the instructions of an informed public. To this end, I can only say I certainly hope so. But the U.S. Supreme Court did not allow the Arkansas court to deny the people a vote on this measure. In a highly unusual move, the High Court7 to 2issued an emergency stay of the state court decision and the voters got their opportunity to cast ballots for or against the Informed Voter Law.
On November 5, more than 60 percent of Arkansans voted to add the Term Limits Informed Voter amendment to their state constitution. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has been petitioned to take the case, and we believe the people of Arkansas will prevail on the merits.
The response to these Informed Voter Laws has been universal shock and horror from the political establishment. What is there to cause such objection? These laws offer congressmen non-binding instructions from the people they work for and are charged with representing. The republican right of instruction is nothing new and surely no elected official could object to his or her constituents making their desires known regarding their government and their very own representative.
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The informational aspect of the initiative has been attacked as the Scarlet Letter. Yet term limit enemies do not argue the information is anything but accurate. Their claims that such an ''instruct and inform'' tactic is coercive are all predicated on their understanding that the public deeply favors term limits and will likely use the accurate information to oppose those not representing their position. Do incumbents have a right to block truthful information harmful to them from the voting public? If citizens are free to make their instructions known, are they to be denied any knowledge as to how their elected representatives have acted? There is no public good in promoting public ignorance on term limits.
Some have argued that the voters will demand similar information on a whole host of issues. They imagine ballot information such as ''voted to raise taxes'' or ''supported congressional pay raise'' next to candidates' names. What if it were so? Isn't public education a good thing? If the voters want more information, then they should have it. Yet, similar voter instructions were given and ballot notations used 90 years ago by the Progressives in pursuit of the Seventeenth Amendment for popular election of U.S. Senators and not until now on term limits have citizens returned to this device. The reasons are obvious. Voters understand they must call the tune if they can hope to overcome the political self-interest of members on the issue.
Harry Truman was called ''Give'em Hell Harry.'' But Truman remarked, ''I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.'' These Informed Voter Laws likewise only tell the truth, and while they have popular support, term limits opponents will think they're hell. With public knowledge, politicians lose their wiggle-room on an issue that truly matters to voters.
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The American people want a constitutional amendment for a three-term limit in the House and a two-term limit in the Senate. The sooner this body proposes such an amendment, the sooner Congress can be reconnected to this great country. For as the great Englishman Edmund Burke said: ''In all forms of Government the people [are] the true legislators.''
I ask you to put aside all political games and offer a proposal the American people have endorsed. If this Congress chooses to vote it down, so be it. At least the people will have a clean vote on real term limits.
(Attachments to Mr. Jacob's prepared statement are in the subcommittee files).
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Mann.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS E. MANN, DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENTAL STUDIES, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
Mr. MANN. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for having me back again. I just want to say the fact that Bill Frenzel and I are both here from Brookings demonstrates that it is possible to disagree agreeably when it comes to term limits.
Mr. Chairman, I think term limits are a solution in search of a problem. The modern-day term limits movement, which is very much tied to the historical anti-Federalist movement, emerged in the 1980's at a time of incredibly low turnover, a time in which frustrations with the Democratic Party's dominance of the House of Representatives were building, when increasingly members of the public and Members of Congress felt frustrated by their inability to deal with budget deficits. That prompted a movement, and some of my colleagues at this table are part of that term limits movement.
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But guess what? The world changed. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. Two-thirds of the Members of this body have arrived in the 1990's. We now have a more competitive situation in fights for control of the House and Senate and the White House than at any time in modern political history. We have had limitations imposed on the seniority system. We have Members who are self-limiting themselves, and we have made extraordinary progress in dealing with our budget deficits, that makes the United States the envy of the world.
It seems rather peculiar that in the face of all this good news we hold on to the solution which was designed for another world. Alas, I think it shows you that movements outlive their cause. I think the advocates of the term limits movement do not realize they have achieved many of their real objectives.
But, alas, there remains a principled, not a self-interested, case against term limits that I would argue is a forceful one; and much of that was eloquently argued on the floor of the House by the chairman of this full committee when this constitutional amendment was before the body 2 years ago. But let me suggest that what remains of the argument for term limits is a romanticized yearning for a supposed golden era, long past, in which selfless citizens, free from the unseemly quest for reelection, temporarily answer their country's call to legislate in the public interest.
Unfortunately, the linchpin of the case for term limitsthe desirability and feasibility of ending legislative careerism and returning to the citizen legislature originally conceived by the Founding Fathersfails in every key dimension.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, mandatory rotation was explicitly rejected by the Framers because it would destroy the primary incentive used to construct a deliberative democracynamely, giving Members a longer-term stake in the institution so they would look beyond the public's immediate concerns.
Second, high turnover and amateurism in the 19th century Congress and in State legislatures did more to nurture parochialism, corruption and special interest influence than it did to enhance the public welfare.
Third, professionalism is a necessary offshoot of the growth and specialization of the modern world. If the political rules are rewritten to make it impossible to build a career in Congress, then the institution will have to rely on the professionalism of others to do the job, whether they are staff members, bureaucrats or lobbyists.
Finally, any effort that is used to replace careerists with citizen legislators is likely to produce some combination of itinerant professionals with weak institutional loyalties and elite amateurs whose resources and connections make a brief stint in Congress both possible and profitable.
But there are two other reasons for rejecting term limits. One, it places unnecessary limits on the individual freedom of voters to return their representative if they choose to; and, secondlyand this is important and so easily dismissedit would weaken Congress because it would deny any possibility of individuals building legislative careers based on wisdom and excellence.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Any able legislative body needs a mix of the fresh infusion of new Members with the seasoned experience of veterans. Even the 19th century Congresses, with their rapid turnover, always had some dozens of Members that could bring that experience to bear. It would be a tragedy for our American democracy to make that impossible in the future.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Mann follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THOMAS E. MANN,(see footnote 1) Director, Governmental Studies, the Brookings Institution
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify on the issue of congressional term limits and specifically on the wisdom of amending the Constitution to limit the number of terms members may serve in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
This is the third time I have been asked by this committee to review and assess the case for term limits. In my initial testimony on November 19, 1993 (a revised version of which was published as ''Congressional Term Limits: A Bad Idea Whose Time Should Never Come,'' in The Politics and Law of Term Limits, Cato Institute, 1994), I concluded that term limitation is a false panacea, a slam-dunk approach to political reform that offers little beyond emotional release of pent-up frustrations with the performance of the economic and political system. Whatever evil term limits were designed to countercareerism, incumbency advantage, unaccountable power, or overspendingthe evidence suggested that the actual consequences were likely to be far different and potentially harmful to our political system. I returned on February 3, 1995 to argue that the results of the 1994 elections strongly supported the position that term limits are neither necessary nor desirable for the healthy functioning of our democratic system. I noted that it would be a supreme irony if term limits were adopted at the very moment that Republicans had finally grasped the reins of power in Congress. The political marketplace operated efficiently in 1994, without arbitrary limits built into the Constitution, to accelerate membership turnover, end one-party dominance of the House of Representatives, and limit the automatic advantages of seniority.
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Today the debate over legislative term limits has even less urgency and plausibility than it did two years ago. The House provided backers of the term limit amendment a full debate and vote on the floor; the intellectual force of the opposition, led by the redoubtable chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, provided a compelling, principled rationale for rejecting the amendment. Nothing has happened in the world of politics since that vote to strengthen the case for limiting terms. The rapid pace of membership turnover in the Congress continued unabated in 1996, dispelling any notion of a ''permanent'' Congress. Almost two-thirds of the members of the House were first elected in the 1990s; 40 of the 100 senators are in their first term (one of whom, with only 'two years of experience in the Senate, already chairs a major committee). The last election also saw a continuation of the trend toward more competitive congressional elections. Incumbent reelection rates and margins of victory in 1992, 1994, and 1996 were low enough to encourage fixture challengers and put fear in the hearts of members of the Senate and House who seek reelection. The two major political parties are now more competitive at the presidential and congressional levels than at any other time in recent decades. No longer do we speak of one-party dominance of either branch of government.
Those who embraced term limits as a last desperate attempt to cope with crushing budget deficits also have reason to reconsider they position. The argument that overspending by government is a direct result of careerism in Congress always rested on an exceedingly weak evidentiary base. Seniority is dwarfed by party and ideology in shaping spending decisions by members of Congress. Now we have declining deficits that make the fiscal position of the United States the envy of the world and good prospects for balancing the budget in the not distant future. While we face difficult decisions over how best to cope with the looming demographic pressure on our social insurance programs, there is no reason to believe a term-limited Congress would make wiser or more timely decisions.
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Finally, the passage of time since term limits were considered by the House gives us a chance to learn from the experience of the 20 states whose state legislators are now term limited. It is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions. Only a fraction of members in the Maine and California legislatures ran up against limits in 1996; the pace will quicken in 1998. But there are already signs appearing that raise doubts about how beneficial (or even benign) term limits will be for the functioning of our democracy. The term-limited states vary by the type of limits imposed (lifetime vs. continuous service), their length (ranging from six to twelve years), and the pattern of turnover in state legislatures before term limits were imposed, making inferences hazardous. What we see thus far suggests that term limits may increase turnover, strengthen executives, ship power from lower to upper chambers (which tend to have longer terms), heighten partisan conflict, and increase reliance on experts, including staff and lobbyists. At the very least, Congress would be wise to defer action on a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms until these state experiments have a chance to play out and the results can be evaluated.
Recent developments thus provide no basis for reevaluating past opposition to congressional term limits. In many respects term limits advocates have already succeeded in their most important objectives. Voters are less passively supportive of their own representative. Candidates are increasingly self-limiting their own terms, opting as incumbents to leave earlier and as challengers to promise to spend only a short period of time in public life. Changes in party control of the Congress are likely to be more norm than exception in future years. Reformers in both the House and Senate have taken steps to limit the automatic advantages of seniority. The president has been given a statutory line-item veto. Congress is grappling successfully with the budget deficit, thanks in part to the leadership of seasoned legislative leaders.
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What remains for advocates is a romanticized yearning for a supposed golden era long past, in which selfless citizens, free from the unseemly quest for reelection, temporarily answer their country's call to legislate in the public interest. But as countless students of Congress have demonstrated, the linchpin of the case for term limitsthe desirability and feasibility of ending legislative careerism and returning to the citizen legislature originally conceived by the Foundersfails in every key dimension. Mandatory rotation was explicitly rejected by the Framers of the Constitution because it would destroy the primary incentive used to construct a deliberative democracygiving members a longer-term stake in the institution so that they might look beyond the public's immediate concerns. High turnover and amateurism in the nineteenth century Congress and in state legislatures did more to nurture parochialism, corruption, and special interest influence than enhance the public welfare. Professionalism is a necessary offshoot of the growth and specialization of the modern world. If the political rules are rewritten to make it impossible to build a career in Congress, then the institution will have to rely on the professionalism of others to do its job, whether they are staff members, bureaucrats, or lobbyists. Finally, any effort to use term limits to replace careerists with citizen-legislators is likely to produce some combination of itinerant professionals with weak institutional loyalties and elite amateurs whose resources and connections make a brief stint in Congress possible and profitable.
Term limits should be rejected not only because they would fail to achieve the objectives of their advocates. Their danger lies in the harm they might do to American democracy, by limiting the freedom now enjoyed by voters to end or continue the career of representatives who seek their continued support and by weakening the first branch of government by depriving it of experienced and knowledgeable legislators.
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Mr. CANADY. Mrs. Mitchell.
STATEMENT OF CLETA DEATHERAGE MITCHELL, DIRECTOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL, AMERICANS BACK IN CHARGE FOUNDATION
Mrs. MITCHELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to join the others in thanking this subcommittee. I thank Mr. Canady for your conducting this hearing. I again want to pay particular respect to Chairman Hyde. We know your feelings on this issue, but again, without your willingness to hear this issue, we would not be here today, and we really do appreciate the fact you are willing to bring this matter before the committee.
Mr. HYDE. Will the gentlelady yield?
Mrs. MITCHELL. Yes, sir.
Mr. HYDE. I am committed to getting this to the floor. I do oppose it with every fiber of my being, but I will do my best insofar as I can, and commit myself to get to the floor any and all versions so they may be fully debated. I think it is that important. Thank you.
Mrs. MITCHELL. Mr. Chairman, we really do appreciate that. That is the kind of statesmanship we Americans like to see in our Congress. We appreciate it.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to direct my remarks to a couple of points this morning. One is what H.J. Res. 2 should say, and secondly, why members of this committee and Members of this body should support H.J. Res. 2.
As it has been introduced, H.J. Res. 2 calls for a 12-year limit on service in both the House and Senate. And as someone who has been involved in the term limits movement for more than 5 years, I want to go on record in support of 12-year limits on the House and 12-year limits on the Senate, and I want to tell you the reasons why I think that is important.
First, I believe that House and Senate Members should have uniform limits. I think there should be one uniform national limit for every Senator and House Member regardless of the State or congressional district. And I think it is important that Members of the House who have to stand for reelection every 2 years are limited in their tenure to the same degree as Members of the Senate.
Now, since no one, to my knowledge, has been proposing a 6-year term limit for Senators, then I do not think it is fair or appropriate to upset the balance between the House and the Senate that was created in Philadelphia and which created our bicameral National Legislature. I think that is an important public policy issue that is often overlooked in these discussions. There is a reason for the House and Senate to be on a level playing field.
Secondly, as has been referenced, the Republican majority in both the House and Senate in 1995 enacted term limits for committee chairmen in leadership positions. I think that it makes sense if you are going to have a committee chairman limited to 6 years that the term limitation for rank-and-file Members should be somewhat longer so that there is a period of training and then the opportunity to move into subcommittee and committee chairmanships and other leadership positions.
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I think that Chairman Canady and Senator Thompson are both great examples of the ability of Members to move into major committee and subcommittee chairmanships in their second terms, and I think that we should see more of that. But I think it is important that we recognize the work that the Republican majority in both the House and Senate have done by enacting term limits on committee chairmanships and leadership positions. I would urge the Democrats to also enact term limits for ranking committee members in the Democratic Party Caucus rules.
The third issue I would like to address is that I do not believe in all these years of working on terms limits, that the American people are demanding term limits of 6 years for House Members. I want to give you some examples.
I have been around this movement forand I think there should be term limits for term limits leaders, and I am just about up to mine, I thinkbut I have been around this term limits issue since 1989. I know where all the bodies are buried. I have been there for it all. And let me say that people who say that the American people are just demanding 6-year House term limits are not being honest with you.
The organization that I chair grew out of the original term limits movement in Colorado, the first State to pass a term limits initiative that addressed congressional service limits. That measure was a 12-year/12-year term limit for House and Senate Members. It passed with a 71-percent majority.
Four years later, U.S. Term Limits came into the State, put another measure on the ballot to lower the House term limit to 6 years. It barely passed and it got 150,000 fewer votes.
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I can go through other States: North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Florida. In every one of those States where the citizen committees wrote their own term limit measures, they wrote 8- or 12-year term limits for House Members, not 6. And I say all of this as a true believer. I want to see term limits passed.
And the fourth reason I support the 12-year and 12-year uniform national term limit is because I think it is the only one that stands a prayer of passage.
When the Framers wrote the process for amending the Constitution, they created a process that includes supermajorities at every step of the way. It is not impossible but it is difficult, extremely difficult, to amend the Constitution, as well it should be. This is the ultimate in consensus building. We will never accomplish anything by splitting hairs and pointing fingers and saying if you are not for my version you are not really for term limits.
I look at Congressman Asa Hutchinson. I have worked with Congressman Hutchinson before he was a Congressman. We were cocounsel together and worked together to defend the term limits law passed by the voters of Arkansas. I shared time with Congressman Hutchinson when we argued before the Arkansas Supreme Court. To have a ballot initiative passed in the State of Arkansas that would suggest for Mr. Hutchinson to vote ''yes'' on a term limits measure is to say that he is somehow violating voter instructions on term limits and describing him as on opponent is ridiculous and bizarre.
I would urge that this Congress take a real hard look at these laws that have been passed that really don't inform voters but misinform them.
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I have, in my testimony I have polling data that my organization has also done, national polls asking people for their position on term limits, what they support. And I have got that in my testimony, but I just want to close by mentioning one specific question that we asked.
After asking voters last year in January, in a poll that we did nationwide, what do you prefer, 6 years, 12 years, the various versions, we then asked this question: ''Some people say that a bill establishing a uniform, national 12-year term limit for both House and Senate Members is the only term limits bill that has a chance of passing Congress. If this were true, would you want your Member of Congress to vote yes or no on such a bill?''
Sixty-two percent of the voters surveyed said they would want their Member of Congress to vote yes. Only 30 percent said they would want him to vote no. Even 58 percent who preferred the 6-year House term limit said they would want their Member of Congress to vote yes on that question.
If we are serious about passing term limits, and I understand that there are people here who are not, but if we are serious about passing term limits, then I would urge supporters to find the magic number that gets us to 290, which is the only number that counts.
I thank you for your willingness to hear me. I would be glad to respond to questions.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Mitchell follows:]
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF CLETA DEATHERAGE MITCHELL, DIRECTOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL, AMERICANS BACK IN CHARGE FOUNDATION
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee. I am Cleta Mitchell, Director and General Counsel of the Term Limits Legal Institute, a project of Americans Back in Charge Foundation. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning on the issue of the constitutional amendment to limit the terms of members of Congress.
I want to direct my remarks to two points this morning:
First, the issue of what House Joint Resolution 2 should say and,
Second, why members of the House of Representatives should support House Joint Resolution 2.
What should House Joint Resolution 2 say? It would be inappropriate not to acknowledge and thank the House Republican leadership for our being here today, even discussing House Joint Resolution 2. Speaker Gingrich has taken his share of slings and arrows in recent days, but let's give credit where it is due. I've been involved in term limits efforts long enough to tell you the difference between a Speaker Newt Gingrich and his predecessor, former Speaker Tom Foley. Former Speaker Foley fought us every step of the way on term limits: in 1991, he filed a lawsuit to keep term limits off the ballot in Washington state and then, when that failed, he used the power of the Speaker's office to raise a quarter of a million dollars in less than 3 weeks to defeat the measure in November, 1991. When term limits advocates came back and passed a subsequent measurewithout the Democrats beloved ''retroactivity'' provisionSpeaker Foley filed a lawsuit in federal court to have it declared unconstitutional. He and the Democratic majority never once allowed any term limits measure to be voted on in subcommittee, committee or on the House Floor. Contrast that with Speaker Gingrich: He made it possible for term limits to be voted on by the Judiciary Committee and the full House for the first time in the nation's historyand he closed the debate in favor of term limits by promising to bring it back this Congress. I think it is more than a little bizarre than any term limits advocates would waste one second of breath attacking publicly Speaker Gingrich simply because he favors a different version of term limits. We have H.J. Res. 2 up for consideration because of the Speaker's commitments and I for one appreciate that.
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Now for its content. H.J. Res. 2 is introduced as a constitutional amendment to limit the terms of all members of the House and Senate to twelve years in each body. As someone who has spent more than five years now working on the issue of term limits, I want to go on record here today as supporting a 12 year limit on service in the House and a 12 year limit on service in the Senate. I believe that is the form that term limits should takeand I would urge the members of the committee to mark up House Joint Resolution 2 in that manner.
Some term limits supporters argue that unless you support a maximum of six years service in the House of Representatives, you're not a real term limits supporter. I say that is complete and utter nonsenseand such irrational dogma will kill term limits as a viable political issue, if it hasn't already done so.
I want to argue this morning for the public policy imperatives in support of a uniform twelve year limit on service in the House and a twelve year limit on service in the Senate. The reasons are these:
First, I believe that House and Senate members should have a uniform, national term limit applied equally to every member of Congress from every state and every congressional district. Since no one is proposing a one term limit for members of the United States Senate, the only way to accomplish the uniform, national term limit for every member of Congress is a 12 year limit on all service in both houses of Congress.
I believe it is important that the members of the House of Representatives, who are subject to election every two years, should have the identical tenure limits as members of the Senatewho are not subject to biannual elections. Uniform term limits for Representatives will act as an ongoing check on the power of those who are not subject to biennial elections. I also believe that the Great Compromise in Philadelphia, which created the bicameral national legislature comprised of a House representing the population and the Senate representing the States, should not be tampered with in terms of any balance of relative power between the two bodies. Uniform limits on House and Senate members is important in preserving that balance between the House and Senate.
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Second, the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate have enacted term limits on Committee Chairmen and have written such limits into the party caucus rules of both bodies. By having six year term limits on committee chairmen, it will soon be possible for many more members of both bodies to have the opportunity to move quickly into leadership positions during their tenure in Congressand then to move on to other life pursuits.
It only makes sense to me to establish limits on service in Congress that are somewhat longer than the limits established for committee chairmanships: Twelve year limits on service and six year limits on committee chairmanships and leadership positions are a good combination to eliminate the worst effects of the seniority system.
Term limits supporters should congratulate the Republican majority loudly for establishing these limits on committee chairmanships in both housesand I urge the Democrats to establish similar term limits on ranking members in the Democratic party caucus rules of both the House and Senate.
As evidence of the exciting opportunities for junior members to serve quite capably in positions of leadership, I point to you, Mr. Chairman, elected in 1992 and quite ably serving as Chairman of this important subcommittee beginning in your second term, as well as to Sen. Thompson, elected to the Senate in 1994 and assuming, after two years in the Senate, the Chairmanship of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. You are both examples of what opening up the process in Congress will do for the institutionand your service underscores why term limits for all members as well as term limits for those in leadership are so important as part of the permanent rules governing Congressional service.
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Third, I beg to differ with the previous testimony that the ''people'' are demanding six year House term limits. With all due respect, the demand for six year House term limits has originated with certain national term limits leaders, not the voters. I've been involved in the national term limits movement since 1989. I know where all the bodies are buried. I've been there for it all. Let me say that those who say that the ''people are demanding six year term limits for House members'' are not being honest. The people of this country want term limitsand they don't want national term limit leaders squandering public support for this issue for narrow ideological differences.
The organization I chair grew out of the original term limits effort in Colorado back in 1989: Coloradans Back in Charge. That grassroots effort put term limits on the ballot in Colorado and in November 1990, Colorado passed a state constitutional amendment that limited the terms of members of the Colorado congressional delegation to 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate. That proposal passed by a 71% majority. Not content to let the people of Colorado have their say on this issue, US Term Limits funded a second ballot proposition in 1994 to lower the House term limit to six years: that subsequent measure passed by a mere 51% to 49% majorityand received 150,000 fewer votes than did the 12 year House term limit.
Similarly, in Nebraska, when the local committee put the measure on the ballot that they wrote themselves, it was an eight year House term limitwhen a second measure, funded by US Term Limits was submitted, the House term limit was lowered to six years and received fewer votes than the eight year limit had received two years earlier.
The same experience happened in North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, Massachusetts and Florida. In every one of those states, the citizen leaders from the states wrote ballot measures that called for 8 or 12 year term limits for House membersnot six year limits. Left to their own devices, the local organizers did not opt for six year House term limits.
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It is totally counterproductive for any term limits organization to berate members of Congress who support term limitsbut who may favor a different version of term limitsas somehow not being ''true'' supporters of the issue.
Fourth, as a practical matter, I believe that the only chance for passage of any term limits constitutional amendment is a uniform 12 year limit on service for both House and Senate members.
And I say that as a true believer in term limits: I don't want all of this effort and all of the public's support for this issue to be squandered because of narrow ideological differences on details that, in the big picture, don't matter.
Of the more than 10,000 constitutional amendments that have been introduced in the nation's history, only 27 have actually become part of the Constitution, and ten of those were passed in the first year of the nation's existence. All 27 amendments became part of the Constitution by the same method: passage by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures. The Founding Fathers made it difficult, not impossible, but extremely difficult to amend the Constitution. This is the ultimate exercise in consensus building. Super majorities are required at every step of the way on the road to enactment. Thus, there is simply no chance for success if any person or group takes the position that it must be ''my way, or no way''.
Two years ago, the House Republican leadership brought term limits to the floor for a first ever recorded vote. First ever in more than 200 years of the nation's history. That process allowed for several measures to be consideredincluding the six year version favored by US Term Limits. The consensus measurethe one that received a simple majority, but not the 2/3 supermajority, was the 12 year uniform limit for House and Senate members.
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And that did not happen against a backdrop of members of Congress thumbing their noses at some huge outpouring of public support for a 6 year vs. a 12 year House term limit. Let's face itthe public doesn't care about the detailsthey just want term limits.
Think back. Was there a huge outpouring of public support, demanding that members vote for the six year measure and against all others? Not that I sawnot that anyone here saw. It didn't happen. The six year advocates had their dayand they did not produce a shred of evidence that the public is demanding that members of Congress vote for the six year limit and against all other versions of term limits.
Our organization has conducted more than one national poll on the issue of term limits. In 1995, we asked 1,000 Respondents the following question:
''As you know, most proposals for term limits on federally elected officials restrict the number of years a US Senator can serve to twelve years and vary only on how long members of Congress can serve in the House of Representatives. Which one of the following limits on members of the House would you be most likely to support?'' The responses were ''twelve years 24%; six years 23%; eight years 16%; allow states to set their own limits up to a maximum of 12 years 29%.''
US Term Limits spokesmen said this was a push questiontoo much information, I suppose. So, in January of last year, we asked a similar but slightly different question in a nationwide poll, again of 1000 voters:
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are many different proposals about how many years a member of the US House of Representatives should be allowed to serve. Which one of the following limits on members of the US house of Representatives would you be most likely to support?
The responses again reflect no clear demand for a six year term limit for House members. 31% said they preferred six years, but 27% preferred provision to allow states to set limits up to a maximum of twelve years, 21% preferred 8 years and 15% said they preferred 12 years.
We added a subsequent question to determine if people wanted members of Congress to oppose versions of term limits other than their first choice, something US Term Limits is insisting the members of Congress should do:
Question: ''Some people say that a bill establishing a uniform, national twelve year term limit for both House and Senate members is the only term limits bill that has a chance of passing Congress.'' If this were true, would you want your member of Congress to vote yes or no on such a bill? 62% said they wanted their member of Congress to vote yes and 30% said they would want their member to vote no.
Even 58% of those surveyed who prefer the six year House term limit said they would want their member of Congress to vote yes on the 12 year uniform limit if that's what Congress would be willing to pass.
If we are serious about passing term limits as an amendment to the Constitution, which I am, then we have to get serious about building consensus and moving this ball down the field toward the goal line. That means supporters of term limits in Congress have to be willing to look at some of the narrow, ideological supporters outside the Congress and say what Sen. John Ashcroft said two years ago: ''I support term limits: and there are no circumstances that will cause me to vote against term limits as a member of the US Senate.''
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Building the supermajority for passage of a term limits constitutional amendment is building the ultimate big tent.
I would welcome more Democrats into that tentsince Democratic voters support term limits in the same large numbers as all other voters.
We can never pass term limits when only 12% of the Democratic House members vote in favor of term limits. Only 35 Democrats out of 204 supported term limits in 1995and I would urge more Democrats to join our ranks.
Members of Congress whose constituents voted for term limits should not vote against passage of the term limits constitutional amendmentas did Democratic leaders such as Rep. Gephardt, Fazio, Bonior, and Dingell, among others.
Republicans can't pass term limits by themselves, without substantial support from Democratsbecause we need 290 votes to win. I challenge the Democrats in this body to vote for term limits on final passagewhen it counts.
Finally, I urge all of you to vote for House Joint Resolution 2 because term limits is an important issue in the effort to restore public confidence in the Congress.
I first became involved in the term limits movement in 1989, as a volunteer, when I was in private law practice in Oklahoma City. I had served eight years in the state legislature, voluntarily retired in 1984 and by 1989 had been out of office for five years, observing politics as a private citizen.
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I began to realize that the trend in the late 20th century was for members of Congress to get elected and move to Washingtonand over time become the emissary from the nation's capital to the voters, instead of the other way around.
The Constitution says that a qualification to be elected to Congress is that a person must be ''an inhabitant of the state at the time of his election.'' It doesn't say, ''at the time of his first election.''
By the end of the 1980's, members of our Congressional delegation in Oklahomaand elsewherewere like the non-custodial parent in a divorced family: they visited us on weekends and holidays, they sent money, but they didn't live with us ... and over time, they didn't know us very well.
I was one of millions of Americans who became increasingly distressed by the arrogance in Washington and a seemingly impenetrable national government. I joined the effort for term limits to try and make changes in that systemnot because the people in it were bad. They're not. It is the system that needs to be fixed.
Most members of Congress are honorable, hard-working and dedicated. But the system works against even the best members and it is the system that must be changednot just the faces or the people.
In the final analysis, our federal government was intended to be one of limited powers. I firmly believe that by enacting term limits and the balanced budget amendment together, we will reestablish that fundamental principle envisioned by our Founders.
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By limiting the time that politicians can spend in Washington and also limiting the money that politicians in Washington can spend, we will restore the national government to its proper role.
When that happens, Congress will be entitled to its position as the First Branch of the federal government. And the people will say, ''Amen.'' Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you very much. Again, we thank all of you for your testimony.
Let me focus on something Mr. Mann brought up. You mentioned that in the 19th century, the high turnover in the Congress nurtured parochialism and special interest legislation. Could you expand on that? What were the circumstances that led to the high turnover?
Mr. MANN. High turnover in the 19th century Congress was more voluntary than forced by the voters. That is to say, the conditions in Washington, initially a swamp and, of course, critically throughout the century no air-conditioning, made this a rather unpleasant place and it really took an enormous sacrifice.
Mr. CANADY. Maybe we should just eliminate the air-conditioning here. That would solve our problem.
Mr. MANN. A colleague of mine, Nelson Polsby, a professor at Berkeley, argues air conditioning explains almost everything in congressional behavior.
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But it really was conditions in society, it was the importance of what Congress was doing, the role of government. There is no question government played a more minimal role until the lead-up to the industrial revolution, when we began to get public investments in infrastructure.
And along about the turn of the century, as government began to play a more important role, Congress began to develop more attractiveness and we began getting longer tenure in Congress. Members decided to run for reelection, and we then developed a system of specialization and seniority whereby rewards accrued to Members who returned to the Congress. That sort of explains it.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
Mr. Jacob, what is magic about 6 years?
Mr. JACOB. I don't know that I refer to it as magic. It is the limit that most Americans support. In fact
Mr. CANADY. Let me ask you this, and I realize you might not accept the premise, but just accept the premise and let's go from there. Assuming that we can only get through the Congress a limitation of 12 years and 12 years, do you think that that would be worse than the status quo?
Mr. JACOB. Let me address that because in my testimony, in my full testimony, I do address that. When people don't like what the people want and they go and do polls that say this is the only thing that has a chance, would you accept it, it seems to me that that shows that their underlying premise is that they don't want to accept what the voters say right off the bat. I mean, we have had term limit activists
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Mr. CANADY. Let me say, my underlying premise on this is, I am counting votes. I am
Mr. JACOB. With all due respect
Mr. CANADY. Just a second. I counted votes in the last Congress and this isn't going to affect me. I am going to be gone. In 4 years I will be out of here. I am going to abide by what the people of Florida said they wanted.
Mr. JACOB. And I respect you very much for that position.
Mr. CANADY. I am going to be gone. I, let me say, respect other people who support term limits or who are committed to finding a way to change the system, and are not going to subject themselves to that rule unless the system is changed. But I am going to be gone, so I don't have a personal interest in this other than my interest in seeing that the important objectives of this movement are actually realized.
And, you know, as I look around and start trying to figure out what is going to succeed, it does not seem to me that the 6-year proposal has much of a chance. Now, it is going to be difficult to pass anything, and I recognize that. I think that it is going to be hard for us to get to the two-thirds vote that we need on any of these proposals. But let meagain, back to my question.
Mr. JACOB. OK. Let me
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Mr. CANADY. Assuming that my premise is correct, and I understand that you will challenge the premise, but do you think we would be better off with no limits than a 12- and 12-year limit? Do you view it as just a total sham?
Mr. JACOB. Yes, I do. It would be like asking someone who wants a tax cut, if the only choice they had was a small tax increase or a large one, which one would they favor? I think they would say, ''If that's the only choice I have, I would favor a small one.'' But that doesn't mean that they favor a small tax increase.
And in the same way, this idea that the only choice we have is the limits that Congress favors most, the votes aren't there, you know, I hate to be so blunt about it, but the votes aren't there for any proposal. And the votes will never be there unless there is a proposal on the table that the American people believe in. As long as there is a proposal on the table that they don't believe in, things aren't going to change. And look at
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
Mrs. Mitchell, did you want to respond to that?
Mrs. MITCHELL. I do, Mr. Chairman. I think that the Congress in 1995 gave the opportunity to bear witness to Mr. Jacob's assertion. There were four measures voted on on the House floor. There was a 6-year measure. There was a 12-year and 12-year measure. There was the Hillary version. There was the Barton-Dingell-Frank, whoever, proposal, the 12-year/12-year with retroactivity.
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Now, I was around for that, and I think most of the people in this room were. I don't remember some huge outpouring of the switchboards being clogged with people calling, demanding that you vote against 12 and 12 and vote for 6. In fact, I mean, I think this is one of those issues, having been involved in it a number of years, people want the issue. They want term limits. They are not too concerned about the details. And I think we get so consumed with all of this inside baseball in Washington that we forget that the principle is limited terms.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you. Without objection, I will give myself 1 additional minute.
Mr. Will, do you have any comments on the length of the limitation, and also on the issue of whether an equivalent limitation should be applied on the Senate and the House?
Mr. WILL. I think 12 and 12 is agreeably symmetrical. Twelve years does allow for the process of legislative learning that Congressman Hyde and others are rightly worried about. It allows more legislative learning than 6 years, but it does put in place a discernible horizon to a legislative career and, for that reason, removes again surgically the one motive of careerism that is the aim of term limits. So I think 12 and 12 is appropriate.
It does seem to me obsessive and obscurantist to make a fetish out of 6 years.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Will.
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Mr. Conyers is recognized.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I amI am not happy to learn that you are going to be leaving the Congress voluntarily, on your own, with Robert Inglis and Bill McCollum and Mrs. Fowler. There is a growing selfyou know, everybody is imposing their own limits. This movement may die of congressional initiative. Who knows?
I am delighted always to be with George Will, on the programs on Sundays when I am called, and I hope I will be soon this year. He and I, while disagreeing, are totallywe have such a great time. Even after the Show, we shoot the breeze. So I am always glad to see you here, George. And I know that you are big on baseball antitrust. I hope you will be back up here and working with us on this in 1997.
Who said, ''Limits on terms would indeed prune much dead wood but also would chop down all the tall cotton. All great careers are long. Frenzo believes the ratio of mediocrity to excellence is too high to protect the former for the sake of the latter''?
What beautiful prose that is.
Mr. MANN. George Will.
Mr. CONYERS. Let methis gets better, though. ''Maybe, but compulsory rotation of offices would bring in rookies, people with a lot to learn in a town where there is a lot to know. Forcing out veteran legislators would increase the power of the permanent government, congressional staff, executive bureaucracies.'' What a great ring.
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And, finally, ''Incumbents win because Americans despise Congress but love their particular Congressman. Incumbents are entrenched by democratic choices and Americans have a constitutional right to democracy, not good government.''
Gad, if I could write like that.
Mr. WILL. Even when he is wrong, he writes like an angel.
Mr. CONYERS. So true.
Mr. WILL. That was well before
Mr. CONYERS. So true. But you have never been wrong before.
Mr. WILL. Well, I can't be right both times. First Corinthians, Congressman: ''When I was a child, I thought as a child, and then I put away childish things.''
Mr. CONYERS. But this was 1990.
Mr. WILL. I know. I had an epiphany.
I was giving that answer when I was asked, ''What do you think of term limits?'' And I said reflexively, in the conventional wisdom, I said if we had term limits we wouldn't have the good government we have got. And that gave me some pause, and I began to rethink this.
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When we refer to rookies, as I once did and I gather you still do, I gather you are not referring to rookie Donna Shalala or rookie Secretary Perry or rookie Secretary Reich, who come in and manage departments far more complicated, I say with due respect, than a congressional office, and do a rather good job and then go home. It doesn't seem to me to be that complicated.
It clearly is the case that the Founders, I think, were correct not to include term limits. It is in the context of the modern state that term limits become imperative. That is, a government that has abandoned the doctrine of enumerated powers, a government that respects no limits on its scope and sweep, a government that intrudes itself into life as the Founders never anticipated and that arms the Members of the Legislature with a one and a half trillion dollar budget, that is a different context in which term limits become germane.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate your writings sometimes more than your speaking, but, hey.
Now, how deep is this term limits, got to have it, the people are rising up? I am reading my good friend Ralph Nader telling me of the outrage against political arrogance and incompetence. But I just called up to Lisa Levine in 2426 Rayburnthat is my officeand I said, ''Where are my letters about term limits?'' She said, ''I don't think I have any.'' I said, ''Call Detroit.'' None there.
Now, I presume these polls, Mrs. Mitchell, extended into Detroit, but what the heck, people answer polls like, do you like sausage or balogna? I mean, people will, you know, tell you something but it doesn't tell you how deep it is.
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I can't get over this abiding notion that this may not be the deepest concern, George, on everybody's mind. It may not. Maybe job insecurity may be bugging people a little bit, or 23 percent of the people in Detroit don't have a dime's worth of any kind of health insurance. We have census tracks with
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you for your kindness.
Census tracks in Detroit with 40 percent unemployment, and so, you know, in the scheme of things, my friends, what can I say?
Mr. JACOB. I would like to address that very quickly. I think that there are an awful lot of Americans out there that want term limits, that don't think they can get it by writing those of you in Congress a letter or making a phone call, and it is why the movement has continually gone to the ballot box.
This is an issue that has won 60/40 in New York City. It has won in Wyoming. It has won all over the country, among every demographic group. And I don't think people wake up in the morning and say, ''You know, what we really need is term limits,'' but when they see the problems we have and they look for solutions, they find term limits and they approve overwhelmingly.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CANADY. Mr. Hyde.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you very much. Plebiscitary government is, what I think I hear, is a very great, very important resource for pro-term limits people. What do the people want?
I will tell you, if you want to know what they want, they would like to cut our salaries by about 80 percent. I wouldn't dare risk that in a plebiscite in the country, but the California experience gives me a little pause. Some judge will reverse it anyway. But what do the people want? I think we are here to exercise our judgment and not necessarily be pulse holders on every issue.
Mr. Will mentioned Secretary Perry and others, how they came in without legislative experience and did a great job. Mr. Mann said it all. He said there will be professionals running this place, but the professionals won't be the elected people and they won't be the secretaries who come in on an average of 22 months and leave. They are pro forma people.
The professionals are there. The permanent bureaucracy runs those places. They are professionals but they are unknown, unidentified, ungettable on the phone, unelected, but they write the policy and direct the policy, and the Secretary gets on ''Meet the Press'' or ''This Week With David Brinkley,'' which is fine.
But I would love to spend some time with George Will, and maybe some day in utopia we will, on the concept of the indispensable man. Thomas Flexner's great book on George Washington, was subtitled ''The Indispensable Man.''
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There is implicit in this discussion that anybody can do the job and nobody is indispensable. Of course, in the generic sense, that is true, nobody is. But in history crises occur, events occur, and there are people that somehow providence has put there that, in my judgment, were indispensable to the successful undertaking of perhaps American policy.
Churchill, you can argue that somebody else might have done as good a job or better a job, and we will never know. We do know that heroism and courage are rare commodities in the field of politics. Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, might the Union have survived? Maybe. Maybe not.
Lenin, was he indispensable to the success, for however long it lasted, of the Soviet empire?
Pope John Paul II, his visit to Poland, did he begin turning around and bring about the erosion and eventual destruction of the Soviet empire? I don't know. I don't know. But I think it is a fascinating speculation, through history, looking for people who really made a difference because they were unique.
To suggest in Congress we won't have crises where life and death, in a world leaping ahead in technology and biological warfare and intercontinental ballistic missiles and nationalism gone berserk all the way around the globe, that we don't need cool heads, experienced heads, people who have been there and done that and survival may hang in the balance. That is why I care about this.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My God, I am 72 years old. I am not going to be here. If any of these bills pass, they won't touch me. But we need the best people we can get in government. We need the best people in government we can get. And to disqualify them because of successful service seems to me to be self-defeating. It seems to me to diminish the quality of government. And it also underestimates what a tough damned job this is, and getting tougher all the time.
And those are my reasons and nothing more. And I am sureI am sorry I used up most of the time, but Mr. Will
Mr. WILL. Could I respond?
Mr. HYDE. Please.
Mr. WILL. Just briefly. I am in the process of writing a book on heroism, which is just about the men and women who have made demonstrable differences that no one else could have made. But Charles De Gaulle, who had no small estimate of himself, said famously that graveyards are full of indispensable men, and the world goes on.
You cite George Washington, who is as close as we can come to our history, with the exception of Lincoln perhaps, to being an indispensable man. It is therefore of interest that George Washington set the pattern for term limits of the executive branch. It was because of his example that Thomas Jefferson refused the petitioning of nine State legislatures to run for a third term. It was because of George Washington's belief in term limits that Teddy Roosevelt left. No man ever left the Presidency more reluctantly, but he felt that the term limits precedent set by Washington was a good one.
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And Lincoln, I would remind you, as I am sure you know, left this Chamber voluntarily after one term as part of a common 19th century practice of rotation in office.
Mr. HYDE. Surely you don't think America was bettered by Lincoln's leaving and perhaps not becoming President?
Mr. WILL. No, he became President in spite of leaving.
Mr. HYDE. Thank God.
Mr. WILL. It was no impediment to his becoming President. And as a matter of fact, since he and I would have differed strenuously on the Mexican War, he was here prematurely.
Mr. HYDE. Well, anyway, I am looking forward to your book and I promise to purchase several copies.
Mr. WILL. Good.
Mr. FRENZEL. That will double the sales.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Canady, I am sorry.
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
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Mr. HYDE. I am just going to suggest to all of you who are scholars that section 2 of the 14th amendment ought to be looked at in this context, and let me read it to you:
''When the right to vote in any election for Representatives in Congress is denied to any of the inhabitants of such State or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such citizens shall bear to the whole number of citizens in such State.''
It has been called a historical curiosity. There is an article in the Hastings Law Journal from the University of California Law School that I have read and will reread and reread, but the impact of section 2 on this issue, I think, has been insufficiently considered. And I simply suggest that to you. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I confess I came to this hearing with the intention of just listening and reflecting the kinder, gentler, Mel Watt this term than I have been charged with being in the past. But some of you know me all too well already, I am sure, and I am having trouble resisting the temptation.
I went feverishly looking for the written statement of Mr. Will in our testimony folder here and didn't find anything from him. Perhaps that is an indication that everything he has to say is in his book and he has some extra copies of it, that we should read the book. Is there a written statement by Mr. Will, Mr. Will?
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Mr. WILL. There is.
Mr. WATT. There is. OK. So it is just not in my file.
I was fascinated, chagrined, I should say, to hear your opening statement. People had told me you were a conservative. To hear a conservative say, I thought I heard you say, the Constitution in this respect is nongermane to a modern day state, maybe I misunderstood.
Mr. WILL. You did. I would not say that.
Mr. WATT. I thought I wrote it down just as it rolled off your lips and wrote it down verbatim.
I was struck by some of the comments you made, and they just didn't seem to me to reflect what I would have expected. I mean, I haven't had any dealings with you before, other than reading your columns for a while and finding that you write brilliantly even though I tend to disagree with you on many points.
Assuming that that is what you said, and I think it is, although you seem to deny that that is what you said, it is equally applicable to this notion that we should be reacting on the basis of polling data, rewriting our Constitution based on polls. I was a person in the last term of Congress who offered before the House of Representatives the fourth amendment as an amendment to a bill, and it was voted down in the House.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In connection with that, I found that if you polled the American public on just about any provision in the Bill of Rights, a significant majority of the American public would say no to the Bill of Rights.
I take it that the fourth amendment may be nongermane to modern dayto our modern day state in the sense that the public is extremely preoccupied with crime, and one way to get to the crime issue is to turn our republic into a police state and allow the Government to kick our doors down and invade our privacy. Or maybe the first amendment is nongermane to a modern day state. Our discussions have become shrill and certainly a lot more partisan than I recall they used to be.
What is this notion from conservatives that all of a sudden we ought to start polling and doing a Constitution based on public polls?
Mr. WILL. Congressman, there is a purely plebiscitary argument for term limits, and you have heard it here this morning from people on my left but not from me. What you heard from me was the very opposite of that.
I advocate term limits to open, and the phrase comes from Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University, a constitutional distance between the people and their representatives, to make them less responsive to surges and gusts of public opinion.
Mr. WATT. But even that seems to me absolutely inconsistent with any conservative theory of how our democracy ought to work.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WILL. Well, I
Mr. WATT. I thought our democracy was based on responsiveness to the public. I mean, this notion that we should distance our elected representatives from the public seems to me a radical notion that you are advancing.
Mr. WILL. Well, the 6-year terms of the Senate reflected the Founders' belief in establishing some distance, more in the Senate than in the House.
Mr. Jacob referred to that great Englishman, Edmund Burke. Burke is the saint of modern conservatism. His most famous rhetorical flight was in his speech to the electors at Bristol when, by the way, Mr. Jacob, he took a strong stand against exactly what you are trying to do with your language on the ballots, that is, the instruction and binding of men who are sent to Parliament to deliberate.
Burke said that a fundamental principle of republicanism, the principle of representationis that. The people do not decide issues. They decide who will decide. And they come here to deliberate, and one of the points of term limits, as I advocate it, if I may
Mr. WATT. Well, let me
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Mr. WATT. I hear you on that issue. What do you say to Mr. Hyde's second provision in the 14th amendment, that I didn't know was there, that this whole notion allows voters to cop out? This term limit thing reallyI mean, we have term limits. If the voters will enforce those term limits, I have a term limit. They canthey just passedthey just missed an opportunity several months ago, but they will get another one
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Mr. WILL. Congressman, Congressman.
Mr. WATT [continuing]. Two years from now.
Mr. WILL. Term limits unquestionably are an excision from the general principle of majority rule. So too is the first amendment, which begins, as you know, with the five loveliest words in the English language, ''Congress shall make no law.'' And it goes on and it says Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or establishing religion. These are things, even if the people want them, they are not allowed to have.
Mr. WATT. But we are right back to the argument that I started off with, Mr. Will.
Mr. WILL. Right.
Mr. WATT. I mean, those are constitutional principles that we adhere to
Mr. WILL. Right.
Mr. WATT [continuing]. Because they are in the Constitution, even though the public might be, in a popularity contest, not inclined to support them. So why should I make an exception for this particular amendment if I am not going to make a similar exception for the 1st amendment, the 12th amendment?
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Mr. CANADY. The gentleman's time has expired. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Mr. WATT. I mean, I am just bewildered as to why, in this particular instance, I should be persuaded to make an exception to this notion thatI mean, we have gone right around the circle that I anticipated we might go around, and you still haven't enlightened me on this issue.
Mr. WILL. Well, let me try one more time.
Mr. WATT. All right.
Mr. WILL. What I am trying to persuade you to do is not something unlike the first amendment but to do something very like it. As we say in the first amendment that even if the American people want to abridge freedom of speech or the press or the right of petition for redress of grievance or establishment of a religion, they can't do it because we have decided as a matter of general public policy they should not be allowed to do that. We are simply saying even if the voters of your district want you a seventh term, and I can understand why they would, but as a general principle the public good will be better served if we removed that option from the majority.
Mr. WATT. The public good by whose definition? I mean, I thought this was a democracy we were operating under.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WILL. Well, you are confused if you think then the first amendment is incompatible with democracy, and that is the logic of what you are saying.
Mr. WATT. I think you are confused if you think the current configuration of electoral politics is inconsistent.
Mr. CANADY. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. BARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the members of this panel being here.
I would like to initially lend my voice to Mrs. Mitchell in praising the chairman of our committee for looking beyond his particular personal position on an issue and realizing that certain issues transcend our own personal views, and he does not allow that to stand in the way of, as he could do as chairman of this very powerful committee, in preventing something from coming to the floor. I think it is a true act of statesmanship to move this process forward and I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Hyde, for that.
I do think that this process, as I said before to the previous panel, it is a very important one, and I appreciate the members of this panel, with the exception of Mr. Jacob, lending themselves to a good open discourse of different viewpoints and bringing positive and substantial issues to the table for discussion.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would urge you, Mr. Jacoband I am familiar with your organization. You tend to try and bully electorates, you do, by mischaracterizing positions of Members of Congress who believe firmly in term limits but just have a disagreement with you over the particular type of term limits.
I would urge you to be a little bit more humble, perhaps, and listen to what Mr. Hyde has said, in trying to move the process forward as opposed to letting any one particular viewpoint so blind you that you really remove any hope of getting done what you would like to get done.
You seem to be, Mr. Jacob, a very strong proponent of polls as a guiding light, and I know that we all use polls for certain purposes, and I am not saying that that shouldn't be part of the mix. But I would say that I have always been very skeptical of people who use polls to say that ''Our position is absolutely right and nobody else's is right and, see, we have a poll to prove that.''
You know, you make rather concrete statements in here: Virtually every State term limit group in the country supports a three-term limit. Throughout America, support for three terms far surpasses support for six terms.
If that is the case, if everybody in the country believes as you do, why aren't all of us hearing that? And why isn't Mr. Conyers hearing that? The fact of the matter is that there is a great diversity of opinion out there, and you can ask a particular individual on a particular day and they will agree with you. Somebody else can ask them the question worded in a slightly different way on a somewhat different day and they would agree with that person.
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I would just urge you to remove your blinders and work together with us, those people who believe in term limits, and not go back to the voters of our districts and say, ''See, Bob Barr or John Doe is against term limits.'' You don't tell them that it's simply because they agree with a slightly different version than you put forward.
So I would urge that in your work, and I think you would find that you could probably accomplish an awful lot more by working constructively with individuals of learned backgrounds such as are here, and the other panels, and many of your supporters, because it is an important question. I think it is more important than simply a group or an individual staking out their territory and saying that anybody that disagrees with us is against what we are trying to do.
So you may not have come here for advice, but I would urge you to do that because what your group believes in is very important. I agree with it in theory. I agree with it in concept. I just happen to believe for a number of reasons. Many of those have been laid out with a great deal more eloquence than I can bring to the equation by some of the other people here today.
And I just would thank you and other members of the panel for being here.
I was just wondering, Mr. Will, if you had anything further to add to what you were beginning to say about the process in response to the comments from Mr. Watt.
Mr. WILL. No, I don't think so. I have a strong book to follow.
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Mr. BARR. OK. Thank you. I have a small amount of time remaining. Would anybody like to respond or to make a particular point that they have been waiting to make?
Mr. JACOB. Well, I would just like to say if you look at the full testimony, we have tried to establish, and I think we have beyond any doubt, that if you ask the American people what limit they want, they want a three-term limit over a six-term limit. You could still believe that that is terrible public policy and oppose it, but if you look at the full text of my testimony, we go into numerous reasons beyond just simply polls and beyond just simply election results.
Mr. BARR. I understand that, and I am not arguing with you on that point.
Mr. JACOB. But it deals with it
Mr. BARR. I am concerned with your tactics of going back to the voters and saying that John Doe, a Member of Congress, is against term limits. You don't tell them that that simply means that they believe in a different number for the term limit years than you agree with.
For example, would you be willing to go back to the people of this country in a poll and say, ''Do you think it is legitimate for an organization to characterize a Member of Congress who believes in a 12-year term limit as being opposed to term limits simply because they believe in 12 years or 6 years?''
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Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Mr. BARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You may not be interested in how they might answer that question, but I think it points out a concern that a number of Members of Congress have with a number of organizations that have an agenda that is very legitimate but use means that mischaracterize positions and I think wind up doing a disservice to the very people we both want to reach with a message and probably would be very supportive. That is my point. I am not arguing at all with the substantive material of your position, just with the tactical steps that you all take sometimes.
Mr. JACOB. We have and will continue to characterize votes by Members and positions by Members as accurately as we can. Our position is that a six-term limit is not a meaningful term limit and, you know, from both an incidental standpoint and from the results of election results and polling, we believe we have an awful lot of evidence along those lines.
Mr. BARR. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to follow up on one of the questions Mr. Hyde asked Mr. Will, and that is about the difference between a rookie Secretary coming in, essentially inheriting a bureaucracy of established bureaucrats who are making most of the decisions, and rookie Congressmen that come in essentially not inheriting a staff. Do you want to comment on the difference?
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Mr. WILL. Well, it has been 20 some years now since I was on the staff of the U.S. Senate, but at that time there was considerable turnover among those who, like me, came for 3 years and moved on. But there was a permanent staff, particularly on the committees, that stayed longer than Members did. I don't know if that is still the case, but I suspect in many cases there is a substratum of professionals here that can still be relied upon.
Certainly, the power of the congressional staff has grown astonishingly in the last 20 or 30 years as the business of Congress has increased and the membership has remained constant in numbers. This may be good. This may be bad. It is probably unavoidable, but certainly the idea that term limits will usher in the era of the powerful staff is novel.
Mr. SCOTT. Well, the decisionmaking process in the Cabinet, where you have a rookie Secretary, I think what you would like iswith Congressmen, we come in and generally with our personal staff certainly, most Members bring in their own staff, and the decisions are made by the person elected, not by the established bureaucracy, which I think is significantly different than what happens in the executive branch.
Mr. WILL. There is no question about it, that taking over a congressional office is not like taking over HHS. I take your point.
Mr. SCOTT. I happen to agree with you on people being a little less risk averse when you have a term limit. You are not as concerned about reelection. My fear is that you may be concerned with other things, like what your employment will be after you leave.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Does anyone have any evidence on what happens in the last couple of years of persons who are term limited in a full-time position, as opposed to term-limited in part time legislatures where you keep yourpretty much keep your job as you go? Is there any evidence of what happens in the full-time legislatures with term limits in the last year or two of office?
Mr. JACOB. There have been studies done regarding lame ducks, which are some of the same dynamics, and what those studies tend to show is that they don't tend to shirk their responsibilities. They don't tend tothere hasn't been any increase in corruption or any other problems like that, from the studies that I have seen.
Mr. MANN. To the extent these are people without substantial personal wealth, they have to think about what they are going to do when they leave the institution. We are beginning to get some results in in California. That is really the first large, more professional legislature that has come up against its term limits and, you know, there is a scramble. Politicians are going to try to figure out what to do next.
One possibility is you resign a little early so as to get the best shot at another elective office and kind of move up the ladder. The other is that you begin to make contacts with interest groups that have dealings with that legislature so you can set yourself up in business as a lobbyist when it is over. It is just worth thinking, Mr. Scott, about the career patterns that will follow as a result of term limits. Who can run? Who will be attracted to the office?
Mr. SCOTT. Following up on that, what about the people who can run, do you want to comment on that, who can take 6 years or 12 years off knowing that that is going to be the end of it?
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Mr. MANN. Precisely my point. Right now people of ordinary means have at least some possibility of imagining, if they can put together the resources and run and win, of developing a career in politics and public life. For those who are limited, say, to 6 years, you have to be a lawyer, you have to be independently wealthy to be able to take this time out, make the enormous effort to get elected the first time and then leave in 6 or 8 years or whatever the particular term limit is. So you have got to think of who is going to be attracted to serve in a term-limited legislature and what are the conditions of their exit from that body?
Mr. SCOTT. Well, do you want to comment on who would be attracted?
Mr. JACOB. Well, let me address that, because I think California is a good case in point. They have a 6-year limit in their House in California, and according to the Los Angeles Times some of the new people coming in are not lawyers; not that there is anything wrong with it. There are former U.S. Air Force fighter pilots, former sheriff coroner, paralegal, retired teacher, video store owner, business homemaker, children's advocate. And what studies have found in California is campaign expenditures are dropping and more people are running for office. It seems to me that people are willing to serve for just 6 years.
Mr. SCOTT. I think others wanted to respond.
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. Mrs. Mitchell.
Mrs. MITCHELL. I think, Mr. Scott, if one would look at the freshman class, the freshman classes of the last couple of Congresses, and see the kind of people who are being attracted to run for Congress in the large number of open seats that there were, particularly in 1994, and people who are committed to term limits, what we have seen is a wider range of background and experience. And certainly I think that at least one gentleman from Tennessee is really glad that Dr. Bill Frist decided to leave medicine and become a U.S. Senator, because he happened to save his life in the Halls of the Senate one day.
I mean, I think that when we are talking about the public policy table that we ought to make it possible to have as many kinds of experience from different walks of life that are brought to bear at that table. And I think that term limits opens up that process to make that possible.
And the final thing on people thinking about what they are going to do next, I am not so sure it is such a bad idea for Members of Congress to worry about the same kinds of pressures and their futures that most Americans worry about, which is what they are going to do for their livelihood.
Mr. SCOTT. Just commenting on that, I am not sure I would like a Congress where everybody is voting with the expectation of what their next job is going to be.
Mrs. MITCHELL. I don't think that tenure limits
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. What special interest groupyou talk about a career path. You may get a career path where some special interest groups become known for hiring former Members of Congress, putting them on nice fat-paying boards of directors, and people are looking in that direction as they cast votes the last half of theiror if it is a 6-year, the whole time they are in there.
Mrs. MITCHELL. Well, I just figure that if
Mr. CANADY. Without objection, the gentleman will have 1 additional minute.
Mrs. MITCHELL [continuing]. We had term limits, that market forces would kick in and they can't all become lobbyists.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mrs. Mitchell, I want to address an issue with you. First of all I want to thank you for your long-time support for term limits and your efforts particularly in regard to the Arkansas term limits law.
I wanted to ask your view on a lifetime ban versus provisions for breaks in service. Obviously, if I had to draft a term limit law, like everyone else, I would probably come up with a different perfect law to present. But that is something that hasn't been discussed at length today. What is your view on a lifetime ban versus a break in service?
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Mrs. MITCHELL. I think that part of it depends on the length of tenure, the limit of tenurethe tenure limit that is decided upon. If it were to be a 6-year limit, I think that it would make sense to allow for a due period of time away and allow someone to come back, but I think that that absence time has to be such that you can't have a Larlene Wallace stand-in, hold-the-seat kind of election so someone has a 2-year break in service and then can come right back. I mean, I think that we don't want to create opportunities for mischief and manipulation.
If it were a 12-year limit in service, then I think that maybe 12 years in the House, 12 years in the Senate, that is a prettyI assume a number of House Members might go on to serve in the Senatethen I think that probably a lifetime service ban would be appropriate.
But I do think that you have to think in terms of what is the length of tenure thatwhat is the tenure limit that you are talking about, and then I would not say just consecutive service. I would have to put a time-out provision that also specified a length of time to avoid the other problem.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. That was a particular problem, I think, with the Arkansas Supreme Court. That lifetime ban bothered them and might have prevented a different kind of ruling in that case.
I want to go to Mr. Jacob. You have put in a number of items of polling data in your prepared testimony regarding 6 years versus 12 years. I did not see any polling data on a lifetime ban versus opportunity for breaks in service. Have you polled lifetime ban?
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Mr. JACOB. You know, I haven't. At least I don't recall polling on a lifetime ban.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. You answered my question. Thank you for that.
Would you agree, then, that the American people have not completely spoken on whether they want a lifetime ban in service?
Mr. JACOB. Actually, I think that my perception is the same as Cleta's, that the longer limits you have, the more people support a lifetime ban and the more, from the polling I have seen, they support retroactivity when you get to 12 years.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, I want to move to the Arkansas initiatives that provide for the voters' instructions on term limits. Did you or your organization have a part in drafting that?
Mr. JACOB. We drafted model language that we sent around to activists in various States.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, under the Arkansas initiative that was passed, and I believe that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court because it violated article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, but if that is reinstated and a Member of Congress from Arkansas votes for the 6-year ban for Congress but also votes for the 12-year ban under legislation, would that violate the voters' instructions, in your view?
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Mr. JACOB. Well, I am not an attorney, but I think if you read the plain language of it, it is very clear that the people of Arkansas in voting for that were saying, ''We don't want you to vote for longer limits. We want Congress to listen to the limits that we have passed.''
Mr. HUTCHINSON. OK. So if a bill comes up that provides a 12-year limit for Members of Congress, your view of the Arkansas instruction is that I need to vote against it?
Mr. JACOB. Well, no. You need to make your own decision. And nothing in these initiatives seeks to do anything but inform you as to what the people of Arkansas want. You then are free to make your own decision on that.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. So your organization does not have a firm opinion on that particular point?
Mr. JACOB. We have a very firm opinion that you should support the three-term limit and that a six-term limit is not a meaningful term limit.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I want to vote for a 6-year term limit. I want to vote for an 8-year term limit. I want to vote for a 12-year term limit. But I certainly want to follow the Arkansas voters' instructions and I would like to know whether you are going to urge the secretary of State to put a ''disregarded voters' instruction'' next to my name on the ballot if I vote for a 12-year term limit.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JACOB. That is up to the secretary of State. It is not up to U.S. Term Limits.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. What position are you going to take with the secretary of State?
Mr. JACOB. I don't believe we have any legal standing to take any position in Arkansas on that.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Voters' instructions are important. Would you agree that there have been a number of States, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, that have passed 8-year limits?
Mr. JACOB. There are some States that have passed an 8-year limit.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Would you agree that Members of Congress from those States should vote for 8-year term limits and oppose 6-year term limits?
Mr. JACOB. No, I wouldn't.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you. That is all I have, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
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Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. I am wondering if I might be able to get a copy of Mr. Will's statement.
Mr. CANADY. Yes. We will be happy to assist you in obtaining a copy of that.
Again, I want to thank all the members of this panel for being with us today. Your comments have been very helpful.
The subcommittee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:25 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned.]
LIMITING TERMS OF OFFICE FOR MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND U.S. SENATE
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JANUARY 22, 1997
Serial No. 30
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
Page 150 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
SONNY BONO, California
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRISTOPHER B. CANNON, Utah
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
Page 151 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
THOMAS E. MOONEY, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Staff Director
Subcommittee on the Constitution
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
BOB BARR, Georgia
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MAXINE WATERS, California
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
Page 152 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJERROLD NADLER, New York
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
KATHRYN HAZEEM LEHMAN, Chief Counsel
KERI D. HARRISON, Counsel
JOHN H. LADD, Counsel
ROBERT J. CORRY, Counsel
C O N T E N T S
January 22, 1997
Canady, Hon. Charles T., a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution
Barton, Hon. Joe, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas
Dingell, Hon. John, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan
Fowler, Hon. Tillie, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Frenzel, Bill, guest scholar, governmental studies program, Brookings Institution
Page 153 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Hibbing, John R., professor of political science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jacob, Paul, executive director, U.S. Term Limits
Mann, Thomas E., director, governmental studies, the Brookings Institution
McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Mitchell, Cleta Deatherage, director and general counsel, Americans Back in Charge Foundation
Thompson, Hon. Fred, a Senator in Congress from the State of Tennessee
Will, George, nationally syndicated columnist and television commentator
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Barton, Hon. Joe, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas: Prepared statement
Dingell, Hon. John, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan: Prepared statement
Frenzel, Bill, guest scholar, governmental studies program, Brookings Institution: Prepared statement
Hibbing, John R., professor of political science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Prepared statement
Jacob, Paul, executive director, U.S. Term Limits: Prepared statement
Mann, Thomas E., director, governmental studies, the Brookings Institution: Prepared statement
McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida: Prepared statement
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mitchell, Cleta Deatherage, director and general counsel, Americans Back in Charge Foundation: Prepared statement
Thompson, Hon. Fred, a Senator in Congress from the State of Tennessee: Prepared statement
Will, George, nationally syndicated columnist and television commentator: Prepared statement
(Footnote 1 return)
The views expressed in this statement are those of the author and should not be ascribed to trustees, officers, or staff members of the Brookings Institution.