Term limits have been discussed for decades among voters and elected officials, leading many to question whether the possibility of such a change to the American political landscape could ever reach fruition.
A September 2023 poll found that a majority of adults, 87%, favor limits on the number of terms each member of Congress is allowed to serve.
The Pew Research Center study also found that term limits are almost equally popular among both Republicans and Democrats. Among those who were surveyed, 90% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they supported them. Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters largely agreed, with 86% giving the nod to limits on how long a lawmaker can serve in either body of Congress.
Despite the polling data, a measure introduced last year by Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., was “killed” by the House committee it was referred to, preventing it from making it to the full House for a vote.
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That bill, H.J.Res.11, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, would have limited those serving in the House to three terms, for a total of six years, and those serving in the Senate to two terms, for a total of 12 years.
Shortly after the measure was introduced in January 2023, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. It wasn’t until eight months later, in September 2023, that the bill was considered by the committee and shot down by four Republicans and all Democrats who served on the committee. In total, the measure received 17 “ayes” and 19 “nays”.
Fox News Digital reached out to the four House Republicans who voted against the measure – Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Tom McClintock of California, Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, and Harriet Hageman of Wyoming – in an attempt to better understand the rationale behind their decision, which differed greatly from that of their GOP colleagues on the committee.
Hageman, who has represented Wyoming’s at-large congressional district since 2023 after defeating former GOP Rep. Liz Cheney in the red state’s 2022 Republican primary election, said she voted against the measure because she disagrees with the notion of “forcibly” removing lawmakers from their posts. She insists that was up to voters at the ballot box.
“Haven’t we learned from Democrat stunts against President Trump that it’s a terrible idea to undemocratically remove candidates from the ballot for arbitrary reasons? Term limits would deny voters a choice they may want to make,” Hageman said. “Also, in a time when unelected career federal bureaucrats are wielding more power than ever before, using regulations to carry out the agenda of radical, leftist, environmental extremists, why would we make them even more powerful by forcibly removing members of Congress who know how to fight against them?”
“We already have term limits, although we call them elections, and in the House we have them every two years,” she added. “You only have to look at the seat that I currently hold for the people of Wyoming to see that if voters are dissatisfied, they can always change horses. I’ve held more than 50 town halls across Wyoming since 2022, and when this topic comes up, I always very clearly explain why I’m opposed to term limits. Voters know where I stand.”
Similar to that of Hageman, Fitzgerald argued that he has held “the same position on term limits” since he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 1994. Elected officials, Fitzgerald said, are “held to account every time their name appears on a ballot.”
“In the House, Members of Congress are elected for two-year terms and that ensures representation is always aligned with the constituency,” he added.
Both Issa and McClintock did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment about their September 2023 vote on the measure.
McClintock, however, described his opposition to term limits during a Judiciary Committee gathering following his vote against Norman’s amendment. McClintock said he disagreed with limiting the number of terms members of Congress can serve after seeing how the California State Assembly functioned after its enactment of term limits in the 1990s.
“I left the assembly in 1992 when the term limits had no practical effect yet on the membership and I returned four years later when they had had complete and total effect. And the differences I observed were absolutely jarring. They achieved the opposite of their intended effect,” McClintock said at the time.
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The “four members that sided with Democrats,” Norman said, had “different answers” for why they chose to vote against the measure.
“Some said they didn’t like the three and two, in other words, three terms in the House for six years and the [two terms for] 12 years in the Senate, and others just said they were against it,” he said.
At the end of the day, we have got to do something about people, you know, coming up to Congress and just living and not going back home and living under some of these disastrous legislations that they’re passing,” he added.
Despite there being some GOP opposition to term limits, which Norman found to be “disappointing,” the South Carolina Republican told Fox he plans to bring forth similar legislation when a new president is elected.
Acknowledging that his future proposal would be a “tall order” for members of Congress, Norman said, “I’m going to bring it back up and talk to the four on the judiciary that were against it and then see if we can’t get the two-thirds vote [in the House].”
Reaffirming his commitment to the issue, Norman added, “We’re going to try it again. It’s going to take the executive branch being behind it, meaning the president, hopefully, will push this and make this a key vote.
“What I’m tired of is we have candidates on both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, that are campaigning on term limits,” Norman said. “Their stand is that they’ll come serve for a short time and go home. That just hasn’t happened.”
Noting that several House members “have been here 20 plus years” and that the Senate “might as well be a nursing home,” Norman said when members “reach a certain age and a time in Congress, [they] need to go home.”
Norman also said he believes Americans have a right to know who favors or disagrees with term limits by the full House holding a vote on a measure like the one he proposed.
“It’s important for Americans to see who is fighting and voting against term limits versus those who are in favor of it. This is a very important vote to highlight to the American people. It’s an 80/20 issue – 80% of the public favors term limits, 20% don’t. They know the consequences if they vote against this kind of bill,” he said.
“I’m optimistic we’ll get it as soon as we get a new president,” Norman concluded.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., who also voted in support of Norman’s amendment last September in the Judiciary Committee, said she believes most politicians are “just talking heads” when it comes to term limits.
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Unfortunately, our Constitution has been distorted since our founding times with an enormous growth of the federal government,” the congresswoman said. “Therefore, term limits should be considered as one of the solutions. However, most politicians are just talking heads and are afraid to put their money where their mouth is, so the term limits bill conveniently failed in the committee.
Federal lawmakers previously attempted to impose term limits for those serving in Congress in 1995, but the proposal failed to advance out of the House, coming up 61 votes short. The amendment offered at the time would have limited members of Congress to 12 years in either chamber – six terms for House members and two terms for Senate members.