Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally.
Tuesday October 18: Donald Trump first proposed a constitutional amendment that would create a term limit for members of Congress while speaking at a rally in Grand Junction, Colorado. For members of the House the limit would be six years and for members of the senate the limit would be twelve years.
Problems Arise: Immediately after Trump had announced this idea as part of his platform, many professionals started to question it. The difficulties included the problem that in order for congressional term limits to be amended to the constitution, both houses would have to vote on it and it would have to be passed by a 2/3 vote. This would be very challenging because that would have almost been congress members voting themselves out of office, which was very unlikely for 2/3rds to do. Also there had been problems in states who had term limits on their state legislature because the members may not be in office long enough to get the bills they promised passed or gain enough experience before their terms were up. Even after all those problems came up, Trump stood firm on imposing term limits
The Purpose: Trump's intention when he wanted to impose term limits on members of congress was to what he called "Draining the swamp". "Draining the swamp" was his way of saying that there were too many corrupt politicians in Washington and it needed a fresh start by having new leaders take office. Term limits would have allowed this because it would prevent "corrupt" politicians from being able to stay in power for too long, even though if the people thought they were corrupt they could vote them out of office. People who opposed term limits said that there was already a way to "drain the swamp" by elections.
Liberals or Conservative?: The idea of Trumps had been a conservative backed idea since it was first introduced in 1970 by Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich. It had mostly always been opposed by Democrats because it was first introduced in a time where Democrats had held the House for many years, so the Republicans had hoped this would help them have a better chance to take the majority in the house. Since 1994 though the majority flipped between Republican and Democratic control, so term limits lost lots of support. Republicans and conservatives who still in supported term limits favored them because they believed lawmaker who have been in office for too long had too close of ties with lobbyists. Liberals opposed them because they said reduced the knowledge of legislatures.
The Plan for Success: In order for Trump's term limit proposal to become an amendment to the constitution he had to send it to congress and it had to pass by a 2/3rds majority vote which was very difficult because not even all Republicans supported this idea and he needed support from democrats too. The only other problem in his way was from the courts. In 1994 in, .S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court ruled against states putting term limits on potential members of congress because they said states could not, "impose qualifications for prospective members of the U.S. Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution". This ruling did affect Trump's plan because he thought maybe the same thing could happen to him. Luckily it did get pass the courts.
The Vote: The amendment did not pass. In the House it did et a 2/3rds majority, but in the Senate it did not. Surprisingly it only got 53 of the 100 votes. Because both houses did not pass the proposal with a 2/3rd majority vote the amendment never happened and members of congress can still serve an unlimited amount of terms.
What Could Have Been: If the amendment did pass Congress could look much different today. Depending on the details of the amendment, Congress could have been affected immediately. If term limits began right away many seats could have been empty, which would have caused a new election to fill the vacancies. Also if it was in effect immediately, many bills could have been forgotten that were never proposed or that had just been started by members who had been pass their term limits. The good part of the term limits is that Congress could have been filled with new faces that came with new ideas, if only term limits had become a thing.
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