“Drain the swamp”: Trump calls for term limits on Congress

“Drain the swamp”: Trump calls for constitutional amendment imposing term limits on Congress

Excellent populist politics. It … would have been more excellent if he had spent the past four months talking about this instead of running it up the flagpole the day before the third debate.

I go back and forth on the merits of term limits. The virtue is obvious: Drain the swamp. Incumbents are hard to dislodge, especially when the special interests who’ve captured them are bankrolling their reelection campaigns. Force members of Congress into retirement by statute and you’re guaranteed a fresh supply of unspoiled citizen-legislators in Washington. The potential vice: How sure are we that those citizen-legislators will be unspoiled? Lobbyists aren’t going to sit by and watch as Congress fills up with high-minded Jefferson Smiths. They’re going to go out and recruit candidates as term-limited seats are vacated. Instead of buying a senator once he’s in Washington, they’ll find someone who can win an open seat, buy him before the race, and then bankroll his campaign. Arguably, special interests have less influence in the current system since a longtime incumbent who chooses to defy them while in office can’t easily be defeated when he runs for reelection. In a term-limited system, lobbyists don’t need to worry about that. They simply sit back, wait for that incumbent to be forced out when his term is up, then replace him with someone more compliant. But as I say, the politics of this are smart for a populist candidate like Trump who’s promising to go to Washington and upset the apple cart. You can’t go wrong insisting that it’s time to throw the bums out when the bums are rocking a 15 percent job approval rating. And that goes double when your opponent is seemingly the personification of everything that’s wrong with the Washington establishment.

By the way, the Senate itself voted on a resolution endorsing term limits back in 2012. It failed 24/75, but every yay vote except one (red-state Democrat Joe Manchin) came from a Republican. Among those supporting the bill were Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee. Trump might get some back-up from his own party on this proposal. In fact, he’s getting back-up even from some prominent #NeverTrumpers on the overall ethics package he announces here, which is designed to block the “revolving door” of legislator-lobbyists. Again, where was all of this for the past year?

Exit question: When did Trump change his mind on term limits? He was against them in 2011.

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