An argument for term limits

The following is the opening testimony/statement presented by Nick Tomboulides, of U.S. Term Limits, at a United States Senate hearing on term limits back in 2019. I am sorry I had not discovered and shared this with you earlier. There are many who continue to make the argument that we need to cling to the experience in our elected members of congress and the senate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about as much experience from these folks as I can stomach. Nearly $28 trillion in national debt should be reason enough to fire every member and start over. I hope you enjoy Tomboulides’ opening statement as much as I did.

“I want you to imagine for a moment that you are an employer and you’ve got some problems with your employees. When you hired these employees, they promised they would do exactly what you asked of them, but once they got the job, they became a nightmare. They stopped listening to you and started using the job to line their own pockets. They took the company credit card and racked up more debt than you could afford to pay back. They became so obsessed with keeping their jobs that they forgot to do their jobs. And after all that failure, all that disappointment and all that incompetence, your employees came to you and said, we deserve a raise. If you’re a reasonable person, that should make your blood boil. And yet that is exactly what it feels like to be an American taxpayer.

The first three words in our constitution are, we the people. It’s written larger than anything else because the framers of that document, the architects of our Republic, wanted to remind you at all times who’s in charge. We the people, we are your employers and you have an obligation to listen to us. So I come to you with a message from the American people. We demand term limits for members of Congress. In fact, according to the most recent national polls on the issue, 82% of Americans want term limits. That includes support from 89% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats and 83% of independent voters. This is not a left or right issue. This is an American issue. In fact, term limits could be the only issue with support from both former presidents Trump and Obama.

Now, there was a time about 25 years ago when Congress was debating this. Nearly every opponent of term limits up here had the same rebuttal-experience, experience, experience. We need experienced to do this job right. If you only leave your Congress member in office for decades on end, he or she will become such a policy expert that all our problems will be solved. In hindsight, that was one of the worst predictions ever. This system is broken. Congress has given us $22 trillion in debt, the longest war in American history, a broken healthcare system, a broken immigration system, a tax code written by lobbyists and explosion of money in politics. Worst of all, too few here have the courage to address these problems because the only focus is on getting reelected. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Congress has a 14% approval rating and 60% of Americans say that they would fire every single member of Congress if they could. Congress is less popular than traffic jams, root canals and hemorrhoids. You’re beating head lice, but the lice have asked for a recount.

Unfortunately, elections alone cannot fix this problem, not because voters like you guys so much, but due to the nearly unbreakable power of incumbency. At the same time, members of Congress publicly claim elections are free and fair. They secretly deploy every trick in the book to keep power. Incumbents get $9 in special interest money for every dollar that goes to a challenger. And if incumbents are having difficulty raising money, not to worry. They’re allowed to send campaign style mailers at taxpayer expense. That’s to say nothing of all the free media and name recognition politicians naturally get just for being in office. The incumbent advantage creates a barrier to entry for everyday Americans without the connections to fund a campaign. It is the case for term limits.

Elections May in theory be capable of dethrone incumbents, but that isn’t how it works in the real world. Congressional incumbents have a 98% reelection rate. That probably explains why Congress looks more like a country club than a melting pot. It’s predominantly made up of lawyers and politicians and is disproportionately old, white, rich, and male. Term limits would give us a legislature that better reflects the diversity of our society. The message longterm incumbents send to young people like me seems to be, we want you just close enough to the political process to help us win, but don’t get too close and take our jobs. The American people have lost confidence in this congress and for good reason. We routinely see abuses of power. 18 months ago, it was revealed that members of Congress were secretly using tax payer money to settle lawsuits, some for sexual harassment.

You still haven’t disclosed how our money was spent and on whose behalf. So term limits is a check on arrogance, it’s a check on incumbency and it’s a check on power. It’s a way to restore political courage while bringing fresh faces and ideas to Washington. As Ben Franklin said, for the rulers to return among the people was not to degrade them, but to promote them. As Kanye West said, no one man should have all that power.

Here’s the dilemma we face. Over 80% of Americans want term limits to happen. Donald Trump and Barack Obama want it. It is being blocked purely by the self interest of Congress. If this were a trial, you all would have to recuse yourselves because there is a colossal conflict of interest. If term limits pass, you won’t stay in the limelight forever. You won’t be the center of attention and some people might even stop laughing at your jokes. You’ll have to become ordinary citizens and that is, my friends, the entire point. We’re asking you to do what’s right and listen to the people you represent. It’s time to bring the gravy train into the station, end the reign of career politicians and give Congress back to the people. Please support Senate joint resolution one for term limits. Thank you.”