Under the direction of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on The Constitution will hold a hearing on Tuesday in support of his effort to institute strict term limits for people serving in Congress. The six-person GOP majority on the subcommittee has been serving in Congress for a combined 82 years.
Cruz, who chairs the subcommittee, is the architect of a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent voters from choosing to elect anyone to the House who has served in the body for six years, or anyone to the Senate who has served there for two six-year terms. The hearing, titled “Keeping Congress Accountable: Term Limits In the United States,” will feature former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and a panel of experts for and against the proposal.
Putting aside Cruz’s notion that substituting his own judgment for that of voters as to whether someone with experience should be able to continue in an important job will increase accountability, the actual language of his proposal has a notable caveat. The third section of his suggested amendment states: “No term beginning before the date of the ratification of this article shall be taken into account in determining eligibility for election or appointment under this article.”
In other words, any accountability would only apply to terms that have not yet been served. That would leave the door open to people like, say, Ted Cruz, to be able to run for two more full terms before bumping up against its limits.
The carve out is noteworthy given the composition of the subcommittee that will be holding the hearing. The 11-person panel includes six Republicans and five Democrats. The Republican majority includes Cruz, his fellow Texan Sen. John Cornyn, and Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mike Lee of Utah, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Mike Crapo of Idaho.
Cruz was re-elected in 2018 to a second term, and is in his seventh year in the Senate. Despite his stated belief that two terms should be the limit, he has already raised more than $1 million for his 2024 re-election campaign.
Cornyn was first elected to the Senate in 2002. Now 17 years into his tenure, he is actively gearing up for his 2020 re-election campaign and seeking a fourth term.
Lee was first elected in 2010. Nine years in, he is also raising money for his 2022 campaign for a third term.
Blackburn was just elected to the Senate for the first time in November 2018, but spent 16 years in the House over her eight terms there.
Crapo served six years in the House before his first election to the Senate in 1998. Some 21 years into his tenure in the upper chamber of Congress, he is already raising money for his 2022 race for a fifth term.
Indeed only Sasse, who was elected in 2014 and is in his fifth year in the Senate, could support this without easily being accused of hypocrisy.
If the amendment advances through Cruz’s subcommittee, it will go before the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Its chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), served eight years in the House and is in his 17th year in the Senate.
Should it pass the full committee, it would be up to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He was first elected in 1984 and is about to seek his seventh six-year term.