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Effort for congressional term limits
By Rep. Elaine Davis, TN State House District 18
November 8, 2023

In recent years, Congress has seen significant turmoil that has eroded the public's trust in this institution. Gallup, a well-known polling organization, conducts an annual survey to measure the confidence Americans have in various institutions. Small businesses receive the highest level of confidence, with 65% expressing strong trust. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum lies Congress, with only 8% of Americans having faith in its abilities. It's clear that something is seriously amiss within the halls of Capitol Hill.

Tennesseans are definitely concerned. A 2020 poll revealed that a whopping 78% of likely voters in our state support the idea of term limits for members of Congress. Our Founding Fathers envisioned a federal legislative body that would resemble a true citizen's legislature, one that remained accountable to both the states and the people they represented. One wonders what they would think of Congress today.

The Framers were wise enough to provide in the Constitution a provision by which the Constitution could be amended from time to time to restore the operation of government back to original principles that animated the Framers. The professionalization of Congress over the course of the past century has created many problems, chief of which is disincentivizing Congress from actually solving problems. There are certainly dedicated members in Congress, including members of the Tennessee delegation like Sen. Bill Hagerty, and Reps. Diana Harshbarger, Tim Burchett, Andy Ogles, and Mark Green who have all signed a pledge to support a congressional term limits amendment. However, a huge number of their colleagues in D.C. have become too comfortable in their roles, unwilling to take the political risks necessary to address critical issues such as government spending, immigration, and inflation. Incumbents hold a significant advantage in elections, with 100% of U.S. Senators seeking reelection last year retaining their seats and a 94% reelection rate in the House. This pattern repeats itself in every election, making it exceedingly difficult for serious challengers to emerge with fresh and innovative solutions.

A constitutional amendment for congressional term limits would help restore the institution of Congress back to original principles. It would force Congress to align better with George Washington, who voluntarily set the noble precedent by stepping down after two terms, a precedent that was made law of the land for all presidents with the 22nd Amendment. That's why I cast my vote this year in favor of House Joint Resolution 5 (HJR5), which, if passed, will add Tennessee to the growing list of states calling for a limited convention to propose a congressional term limits amendment. When the number of states supporting this resolution approaches the required 34, it will confront Congress with the necessity to propose the amendment themselves or watch it be done for them.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee recently voted down a proposal for their own term limits, We in the Tennessee General Assembly must do our part to help create the necessary pressure for our representatives in Washington to pass this amendment or watch the states do it for them. I eagerly anticipate my colleagues in the Tennessee Senate advancing HJR5 through the Senate. It would be a big win for both Tennessee and America.


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