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Term Limits


State legislatures shall have the power to limit the terms of members of Congress in their States.

Term Limits: Proposed Language

The legislature of each State shall have the power to limit the terms of the Senators and Representatives in Congress representing such State.


In the 1980s, there was much political discourse about whether our country could improve itself by limiting the terms of members of Congress. Congress itself did nothing. However, certain states determined that it would be better for them if their congressional members were exposed to term limits. Consequently, the legislatures in fourteen states passed term limit laws.  Eventually, these laws were challenged and their constitutionality considered by the Supreme Court.

In U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995), the Supreme Court held that the Tenth Amendment, by which powers not delegated to Congress were reserved to the states or the people, did not confer power on the states to adopt such legislation. The argument was the Tenth Amendment gave the states powers that existed prior to the Constitution but did not reserve to the states additional powers that arose by reason of the Constitution. See Amendment 35.1 Commentary.

While the issue of term limits continues, sometimes with more intensity than at other times, we see no reason why the states should not be able to limit the terms of their own federal representatives. In fact, we believe this is a far more preferable method of dealing with the issue than making a blanket rule applicable across the nation. The diversity of our many States permits the experimentation that, in the end, generates ideas that can be helpful to all of us. A general uniform rule, on the other hand, can result in mistake and stagnation. Moreover, it is much easier for a state to change its law on term limits than it is to change a constitutional amendment. It is also unlikely that members of Congress will ever impose term limits on themselves because there is a certain magic about Washington, D.C., which has a Sirenic appeal. In fact, one reads frequently about how long-term members of Congress, upon retirement, rather than go home where they came from, get a lobbying job or otherwise retire in Washington. The overall notion held by most Americans is that people have a duty to serve for a reasonable time to help their state and their country and are then expected to return and resume where they left off when their government service began.

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