Homesteading in Congress
We are at a point in time where once again we are talking about term limits in Congress which is called “Rotation in Office” or “Homesteading”.
Let’s take a look at Federal Term Limits as defined by the Constitution and listed here on Wikipedia.
President – Limited to being elected to a total of 2 four-year terms. A President by succession who completes more than two ears of a former President’s unfinished term may be elected in his or her own right only once, and 2 more four-year terms are permitted if they complete two years or less. Becoming a President by succession may happen to someone an unlimited number of times, for example, if he or she is Vice President and the President dies, resigns or is removed from office via impeachment conviction.
Vice-President – Unlimited four-year terms.
House of Representatives – Unlimited two-year terms.
Senate – Unlimited six-year terms.
Supreme Court – No term limits, appointed to serve “during good behavior” (but can be impeached and removed from office for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”); in practice a Justice serves until death or stepping down (by retirement or resignation).
As of 2013, term limits at the federal level are restricted to the executive branch and some agencies. Judicial appointments at the federal level are made for life, and are not subject to election or to term limits. The U.S. Congress remains (since the Thornton decision of 1995) without electoral limits.
In U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995), that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.
During the federal constitution convention at Philadelphia some delegates spoke passionately against term limits such as Rufus King, who said “that he who has proved himself to be most fit for an Office, ought not to be excluded by the constitution from holding it.”
In district nominating conventions local leaders could negotiate and enforce agreements to pass the nominations around among themselves. Abraham Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846 under such a bargain, and he returned home to Springfield after a single congressional term because, he wrote, “to enter myself as a competitor of another, or to authorize anyone so to enter me, is what my word and honor forbid”.
“Homesteading,” or securing a lifelong career in Congress, was made possible by reelection rates that approached 100% by the end of the 20th century. The concept of homesteading brought about a popular movement known as the “term-limits movement”.
In the 1994 elections, part of the Republican platform included legislation for term limits in Congress. After winning the majority, a Republican congressman brought a constitutional amendment to the House floor that proposed limiting members of the Senate to two six-year terms and members of the House to six two-year terms. The bill got only a bare majority (227-204), falling short of the two-thirds majority (290) needed for constitutional amendments. Three other term limit bills failed to get more than 200 votes. Defeated in Congress and overridden by the Supreme Court, the federal term limit uprising was brought to a halt.
In 2007 it was suggested that a national constitutional convention be called to accomplish the amendment, since the Congress would be unlikely to propose and adopt any amendment that limits its own power.
Here are things to consider when discussing term limits there are 100 Senators (unlimited six-year terms) and 435 Representatives (unlimited two-year terms) in Congress. As of May 18, 2018 there are 79 members of Congress who have been in office for at least 20 years. It is unclear how many members have served in excess of 2 terms.
Over the past 240 years congressional term limits have been discussed, attempted numerous times and have been overturned by the Supreme Court. I have no doubt that no member wants term limits for Congress even though it sounds like a good idea to American voters who can limit terms at the voting booth, but I think it’s time to relook at this problem and come up with a workable solution for America.
I have no answers, just questions? – I am the Real Truckmaster!