The Desperate Need For Term Limits
One topic that has been in the news periodically throughout the past couple of years is term limits. President Trump endorsed the idea of term limits in a tweet in April of 2018. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL6), have even proposed a Constitutional Amendment to put term limits in place.
The limits Cruz and DeSantis proposed are three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate. Conservative talk show host Mark Levin has talked about the idea of term limits for the Supreme Court for years, saying that justices shouldn’t be able to serve 40 or 50 years on the court. Levin’s idea for term limits on the Supreme Court is 20 years. In addition to his radio show, Levin talked about this idea with Sean Hannity on television in September 2013. The transcript of that interview is available here.
Why Term Limits Are Needed in Congress
Term limits are necessary in Congress for multiple reasons.
Many people end up making careers out of being politicians and become swamp dwellers in Washington, DC. There are examples of this on both sides of the aisle, with people like Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Conyers (D-MI), and Thad Cochran (R-MS). Conyers resigned last December in the wake of multiple sexual harassment violations, Cochran retired in April 2018 due to health concerns, and Hatch is retiring following the end of his term in January 2019. Leahy’s current term runs through January 2023.
Conyers served in Congress from 1965-2017, Leahy has served since 1975, Hatch since 1977, and Cochran from 1973-2018. These four have been in Congress for a combined 182 years. This is before we get into the service time of people like John McCain (1987), Chuck Schumer (1981), Nancy Pelosi (1987), Chuck Grassley (1975), and several other members. Don Young, who has served as Alaska’s Representative since 1973, is currently the longest-serving member in Congress.
Term limits are needed to make sure we don’t have the same politicians representing their own interests and keeping the same ideas in Congress for years while nothing gets done. Another reason for concern are health issues. While McCain and Cochran are the most notable examples, Senators like Robert Byrd (D-WV), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) all died in office due to their health. It should be noted that they did not show up to work to serve their constituents and the American people because of their illnesses.
Supreme Court Term Limits
If Mark Levin’s proposed policy on term limits for the Supreme Court was put into place, the balance of the Court would be very different. Only five of the nine current justices (Alito, Roberts, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch) would still be able to serve— Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Thomas, and Kennedy would not be allowed to serve. President Obama perceivably would have been able to fill everyone’s seat except Kennedy’s, whose term would have expired in 2008.
Knowing the partisan divide in 2008, it is unlikely President Bush could have filled Justice Kennedy’s seat the same way President Obama was unable to fill Justice Scalia’s seat in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
Limiting the time Justices can serve would potentially eliminate health issues in some of the older justices and allow for newer ideas and younger people to serve on the Court. It would also take away the lifetime terms that Justices use to take advantage of determining their retirement, like the liberal-minded Justice Stevens retiring under President Obama and a moderate/conservative Justice like Sandra Day O’Connor retiring under George W. Bush. This would also force voters to think more critically when going to the ballot box since the decisions the Supreme Court makes are more likely to affect them than decisions the President makes.
The most important attribute to term limits would be ending the career politician lifestyle that is taking place in Washington DC. Levin also argues in The Liberty Amendments that this type of government is not what the Framers had in mind.