The American electorate surprised the world in November because they were tired of their government acting as master instead of servant. The people’s message is clear: It’s time for real and lasting change.
To restore constitutional balance, we must bring the career politicians home and replace them with patriots ready to make the hard choices necessary for prudent governance. That is why I have introduced a term limits constitutional amendment, H.J. Res. 50, restricting service in Congress to six two-year terms in the House and two six-year terms in the Senate. The resolution has 12 original cosponsors.
The people support term limits. Polling consistently shows three-quarters of Americans backing term limits, with large majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents in favor. We also have President Donald Trump on our side. He put congressional term limits at the top of his “Contract with the American Voter” list for action in the first 100 days.
We must seize the moment and put a term limits amendment before the states for ratification.
Over the last 50 years, 93 percent of House incumbents and 79 percent of Senate incumbents have been reelected. I was first elected in the “tea party” wave of 2010, when voter unrest was high. Even then, the formidable power of incumbency kept reelection rates at 85 percent in the House and 84 percent in the Senate.
Despite 2010’s call for restoration of constitutional principles and restraint of a wasteful government, Americans got more of the same. The Washington establishment hunkered down, put off tough votes and increased the federal debt to nearly $20 trillion.
The Founding Fathers expected elected officials to serve temporarily and return to their communities. I went to Washington for public service, not a career.
Roger Sherman of Rhode Island, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, understood the risk of an entrenched Congress. “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people,” Sherman wrote. “By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents.”
I’m not fond of the habits of Washington, and I know they differ profoundly from those of Idahoans. I prefer the ethic of the Founders.
President Washington set the first and most famous example by rebuffing pressure to seek a third term and returning to Mount Vernon. Washington’s two-term precedent was finally enshrined in the 22nd Amendment in 1951, ensuring we have presidents not kings. Term limits work for the chief executive, they’ll work for Congress.
The result would be a reinvigorated Congress, filled by members ready to serve and prepared to go home to live with the consequences of their actions. Twelve years in the House and 12 in the Senate are plenty of time to get the job done.
Congressman Raúl Labrador, of Eagle, has represented Idaho’s First Congressional District since 2011.