The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government held a hearing Tuesday called “Examining Proposed Constitutional Amendments.” The hearing reviewed Article V of the Constitution and proposed amendments, including those limiting congressional terms and mandating a balanced federal budget.
Nick Tomboulides, the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, offered compelling testimony.
He started his prepared remarks by pointing out that every year Gallup asks Americans how much confidence they have in 16 different social institutions.
“At the very top of the list is small businesses,” Tomboulides said. “Seventy percent of Americans have confidence in those. The lowest-rated group is the U.S. Congress — only eight percent of people trust Congress. It’s also no shock of course that 83 percent of Americans support term limits, that includes huge majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters.”
Tomboulides asked if 83 percent of Americans want term limits, why aren’t term limits the law of the land?
“Because the permanent political class thinks that the American people are wrong,” he said. “They think we’re unsophisticated. They think we’re not smart enough to decide this issue. I couldn’t disagree more.”
In the real world, Tomboulides said, we’re surrounded by change, progress and evolution.
“Technology doubles every year,” he said. “The only thing that never changes and never adapts is Congress. You probably saw the story about the two ancient frozen mummies. Mexico calls them space aliens, here we call them Senators. A third of our Senate is 70 or older, including several members who were born before or during World War II. And of course, because of the seniority system, the older you are, the more power you have.
“In the real world when a powerful person is showing obvious mental decline, the people around them do what’s best for that person. But Washington is not the real world. It’s a fantasy world where you get ahead not by speaking the truth, but by groveling to those above you. If you fall in line and vote with leadership, you get to keep your seat for life.”
While many in Congress claim to work hard to protect democracy, Tomboulides said there is nothing less democratic than a congressional election.
In the last 20 years, House incumbents have a 94 percent re-election rate. The Senate numbers, he added, are not much better. Last year 100 percent of Senators were re-elected.
“That doesn’t happen because people are thrilled with their Congress members, come on,” he said. “It happens because the ruling elite have rigged the system in favor of incumbents.”
He then showed a stack of full-color mail brochures from his member of Congress.
“I assume everybody in the district got one,” he said. “On the back in fine print it says ‘Paid for by the taxpayers.’ So he spends one million bucks in public funds to tell us that he’s against wasteful spending. You help me figure that out. But the bottom line is he’s campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime. And if someone wanted to challenge him, they’d have to raise money the old-fashioned way from real donors. So you can see how the deck is stacked.”
He also noted the big money flows to incumbents through PACs, lobbyists and special interests. Incumbents raise 10 times more money than their challengers. That fact doesn’t take into account other advantages such as free media, name recognition and staff.
“This very committee has held hearings where politicians have asked ‘Is Mark Zuckerberg too powerful’ or ‘Is Elon Musk too powerful,'” he said. “I think it’s time we started asking is Congress too powerful.”
When a private business uses its power to eliminate competition, it’s called a monopoly and gets fined or shut down.
“But when a member of Congress does the same thing, they get re-elected,” he said. “It’s a double standard.”
Just 15 percent of congressional elections are actually competitive and the most senior members run with “phony opposition.”
“We need to fix this,” Tomboulides said. “A constitutional amendment for term limits is the only way forward. It will create open seats, lower the barriers to entry and provide us with a citizen legislature as our founders intended it.”
Tomboulides called the vote on term limits a “defining moment for our country.”
“The ball is in your court,” he said. “You get to decide how history will remember you. Will you be remembered as the rich men north of Richmond, as the punchline to every joke, as the people with an eight percent approval rating that nobody can stand? Or will you be remembered as the modern-day George Washington? When Washington had the opportunity to become a king, he said no because he believed in this country and he trusted in its people. He knew there was a time to step aside and let new leaders emerge for our generation. Now is that time.”