Time for congressional term limits
February 3, 2017
By U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador
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 on
Tuesday I 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
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
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.
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