AmiBlue's picture

    The 28th Amendment

     I’ve always been against term limits, but have thought recently that limiting the terms of our Congresspersons would be the best way to keep them from becoming too cozy with lobbyists and might be the best way to put an end to perpetual fundraising and campaigning (I know - wishful thinking)  This proposal for the 28th amendment  lays out specific term limits that seem reasonable to me and also sets forth limitations on the benefits our representatives receive that align their interests with ours.  What do you think?


    From the Brilliant at Breakfast blog. [The formatting is mine.]

    What follows below is a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution and it came from a very surprising source: Mrs. JP's right wing mother. She didn't write it, obviously, but she got it in her email inbox, it made sense to her and she passed it along to her daughter and several others.

    It makes sense to me, too. In fact, if I was writing the language of this amendment, I'd also propose that no member of Congress register as a lobbyist ever instead of making them wait a year or so. No member of Congress ought to be able to capitalize on their political connections on K Street. I would also propose that Congressmen and Senators get docked a commensurate amount of their salaries for every vote they miss, including during election years. In the real world, we get docked if we don't show up for work. Why shouldn't they?

    Pass this along to 20 people on your email list ( I will) and let's start snowballing some consensus.


    The email:

    Subject: Fw: Congressional Reform Act of 2011

    The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971... before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

    Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

    I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

    In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

    Congressional Reform Act of 2011

    1. Term Limits.

    12 years only, one of the possible options below.

              A. Two Six-year Senate terms

              B. Six Two-year House terms

              C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

    2. No Tenure / No Pension.

    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

    3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

    4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

    5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

    6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

    7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

    8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11. (will have to pro-rate current plans since those currently serving may have no independent retirement plan-Norm) The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.

    Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

    Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

    If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

    THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.



    I imagine the first criticism from the Village will be something about not being able to find competent people to run for office.  The way I see it, there aren't very many competent people as things stand today.  There may have to be tweaks before it could become ratified and some of the suggestions would probably e better enacted as legislation than as an amendment, but you know what the odds of that happening are.  In any case, I plan to pass it along to friends and family.

    Oh hell...we can't find competent people to run for office now. What's THAT go to do with it ?

    This all seems to encapsulate the ancient myth of Cinncinatus.

    He comes to the aid of his country in need and after fighting the good fight returns to his vineyards. ha

    Perfect.  You hit the nail, DD.  You are steeped in mythology, aren't you?  Did you study philosophy and or ancient history, or is it just an interest of yours.

    oh I had a minor in the classics with five years of lingua Latina. But as you know, it is how we follow up from those old college days and I am in love with Western Mythology.

    In the Gladiator, at the end of the film, all our hero wishes is to go back to his farm and family which is all gone.

    But most of our leaders just go back and forth from lobbying to ruling.

    And it is a damn shame.

    The two problems not addressed by this admendment is campaign financing and politicians who take careers with the corporate entities after their time in DC is over.  The first is the primary reason for corruption.  The second makes even the corruption a problem even if the politician isn't concerned about re-election. 

    Ultimately, this kind of measure is a way to avoid the real problem which that too few Americans are deeply engaged in the political system.  The primaries and general elections provide the people with enough options to take away power from sitting politicians if the people are willing to invest the time and energy in studying all the challengers as well as the incumbent, thereby making all the advertising dollars and political machine efforts ineffective.

    The primaries and general elections provide the people with enough options to take away power from sitting politicians if the people are willing to invest the time and energy

    This is what I used to think, too. AT and why I was against term limits.  What has changed my mind is the corrosive influence of money and after Citizens United there seems to be no recourse.  The politicians are not going to voluntarily cut off their sources of money which they need for their perpetual campaigns.  There would be fewer opportunities for individual politicians to build their little fiefdoms.  

    In general, I'm against anything that limits the few choices we have in influencing the legislature. I'd rather see a change to our voting system, from the plurality/majority system we currently use to a type of proportional representation, such as Party List (Open), Mixed-Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote (Choice Voting).

    Plurality/majority, or winner-take-all elections may be simple to understand and count, but leave many voters with no representation at all in Congress and their votes 'wasted' on the losers, thus discouraging high voter turn-out. It entrenches the two party system and if any coalitions are formed, they are formed within a party rather than between parties. Most advanced western democracies use some form of proportional representation voting, with many going from winner-take-all to proportional, but never the other way around.

    I could go for the health care provision and I would go for the pensions and social security parts, if they were true, which they're not. :-)

    So don't be sending this out to your near and dear, or even your far and slightly acquainted, till it's been revised - a lot!  :-)

    Proportional representation would be ideal, I agree, but it's not likely to happen any time soon or ever.  I've come to believe that term limits will provide more choice and might even increase participation if people have to think about electing someone new instead of the same old pol. 

    I'm not sure what you mean about the pensions and SS parts being untrue.

    Rather than shifting to proportional representation (or in addition to), I'd first like to see us switch to some form of rank-ordering voting. That way, we can all vote for our favorite 3rd party candidate without worrying about "throwing our vote away".

    Obama was just elected and wasted no time jumping into bed with Wall Street. (Despite reputation, Obama had much more corporate financial backing in 2008 than people remember).

    If you have a new candidate, how are they going to get elected? - say, by appealing to corporate backers who'll bankrool the TV ads.

    The problem isn't limiting the terms of jerks - it's getting good people re-elected. Alan Grayson got trampled in Florida, despite doing an excellent job of speaking out against monied and unprincipled interest. (The only place he fell down was with regard to Israel and their human rights violations, including commandeering the boat headed for Gaza. Oh well, can't have it all).

    In short, another panacea that won't do anything on its own. The only really solution is people have to have eyes open, research, think and vote. But after the Obama election, we know that only goes so far. So maybe it's simply back to "Teach Your Children Well". Cue up Stardust.

    It would be nice if we could re-elect the good ones for as long as we would like, wouldn't it.  But there are so few ''good" pols and 12 years of the bad ones is more than enough, don't you think?

    Interesting, and I do wonder at times if it isn't necessary. But let's remember, I think it was in the Articles of Confederation, they referred to it as Rotation of Office, and it was the expectation that every eligible citizen would serve in order to give everyone a stake in making sure the government runs effectively.

    The council of 500 in ancient Athens rotated its entire membership annually, as did the ephorate in ancient Sparta. The ancient Roman Republic featured a system of elected magistrates—tribunes of the plebs, aediles, quaestors, praetors, and consuls—who served a single term of one year, with reelection to the same magistracy forbidden for ten years. (See Cursus honorum) Many of the founders of the United States were educated in the classics, and quite familiar with rotation in office during antiquity. The debates of that day reveal a desire to study and profit from the object lessons offered by ancient democracy.

    It's some pretty interesting stuff.  By 1783 Rotation experiments were taking place at the State level. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 set set maximum service in the Pennsylvania General Assembly at "four years in seven." Benjamin Franklin's influence is seen not only in that he chaired the constitutional convention which drafted the Pennsylvania constitution, but also because it included, virtually unchanged, Franklin's earlier proposals on executive rotation. Pennsylvania's plural executive was composed of twelve citizens elected for the term of three years, followed by a mandatory vacation of four years. Because of Thomas Jefferson rotation of service, or term limits were included in the Articles of Confederation. The fifth Article stated that "no person shall be capable of being a delegate [to the continental congress] for more than three years in any term of six years."  There were people who argued at the time America was drafting and adopting the Constitution that it was a big mistake not to include rotation of service within the governing document.

    So it seems there are many who believe that term limits are a great idea, I think so too, and it might be the one Amendment that could pass these days, well at least everywhere but within congress. I wonder if they would bend to their constituents on that, it might be interesting to see.

    Interesting and thought provoking blog Ami!

    So one of our biggest problems is guys who serve 2 years in government, rotate out to consulting for the same companies they dealt with in office, than back into government.

    This costs us literally billions as the guys in the know sell back dross.

    Of course you realize I was describing our history. You wrote:

    So one of our biggest problems is guys who serve 2 years in government, rotate out to consulting for the same companies they dealt with in office, than back into government.

    But what you described happens when folks are incumbents for multiple terms as well, I mean think about John Breaux, Trent Lott, or Bill Frist or any number of long time incumbents who have "done their damage". I might put your statement this way:  "Some of our biggest problems are cause by humans who become politicians, some are incumbents for life some serve as little as two years".  Of course the state of humanness, greed and stepping on each other isn't just an affliction of politicians, and isn't something that can be changed, only regulated. But there is an argument to be made that we give up our stake in government, (and I really like my lifetime representative, Norm Dicks), but maybe, in not having a stake, we begin to exempt ourselves from personal responsibility to keep our government running, to find the means of preserving necessary programs, if we had to serve, each of us, maybe we wouldn't see ourselves as completely separate from how our government runs. That is the theory behind rotation of office, giving everyone a stake. If we had that, maybe we would have had real Universal Health Care 70+ years ago.

    I finished a beautiful "what if" response of Mick Jagger to Keith Richards on why Jagger was hardly worried that after 40 something years the most that Keef can come up with is that Mick is modestly endowed.

    Mick in turn seemed to be much more concerned that while he was trying to keep a road operation going pulling in a million dollars a day without any interesting new songs and 3 front men passing out on heroin, free base and alcohol.

    While this may seem like a helluva detour to take in a response, the idea that you and I are going to get into government and do a credible job governing is probably laughable with 2 seconds of evaluation, and when we talk about trillions of dollars in expenditures, well, better be some good governmental chops, understanding of how things get done.

    Plus, they new ethics calls for stiff background checks, and the stuff I did with the circus clowns and the adhesive spray is just the start of a long sordid road that would likely draw a lot of attention my first year in office.

    Other matter is that these guys with money aren't easily deterred just because Mr. Deeds shows up in town. As Willie Long says in All the King's Men, everyone's got dirt on them, even the good judge (and not everyone will kill themselves like the judge - most will take the money and learn to adapt). And how long will it take them to adapt? Oh, about a nanosecond after they're in office.

    You're throwing a solution at a problem without even questioning whether it helps, just a Hail Mary pass.

    Bernie Saunders is a good guy, has been in office a long time. A lot of the freshmen are awful, and will likely be defeated next time around as well.

    What Wendy Davis pointed out, however, quoting Matt Stoller, is that no sitting Democratic Senators faced a real primary challenge in 2010.

    So if we're not even willing to challenge our bad politicians in order to clean house, why should we expect some crappy artificial mechanism like term limits do it? "Please lock my cigarettes in your car so I won't smoke", leading to a broken window I suspect.

    What Ami is proposing is a political theory that has been around for centuries, this is really all I am pointing out Decader. Nothing more, I haven't even written anything about my opinion, but it is interesting that you bring up what I should read before commenting. I am going to share with you the series that I just finished, which is what elicited my response to Ami's blog.


    Cornell, Saul. Anti-Federalism & the Dissenting Tradition in America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

    Koch, Adrienne and William Peden. The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Random House, 1944.

    Main, Jackson Turner. The Anti-federalists Critics of the Constitution, 1781-1788. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

    Struble, Robert Jr. "House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation." Political Science Quarterly 94.4 (1979-1980): 649-667.

    I know, weird right, I have an actual bibliography, and it doesn't include a blog at firedoglake. However, I have not shared with you or anyone what side I am in this discussion. When I first sought to comment I was doing it merely to comment on what I read here because there is a connection with what I I have been reading most recently, along with a number of books on the Know-nothing movement. And to be sure some of what  I recently read supported the blog. I didn't come to merely criticize ami's proposition, because this theory does have some merit, and I am not the only person who believes that, but I don't explicitly say what side I am on and you might be surprised what side I am on. My second comment to you though does give a little of my opinion away, in that I believe it doesn't matter whether people are short term politicians are long term politicians, in that they equally seek to benefit themselves, which is ultimately the human condition, nothing shocking. But I certainly did not explicitly say what side I am on, because I don't believe it was relevant commenting about the blog.

    Rotation is a nice way of looking at it, tmac.  For instance, I see very few (if any) Democrats who are ready to run for president in 2016.  If you have to find new people to run for congress every 12 years or less, you would be more inclined to be looking for new people and grooming them to step in when the time is right.  As it is now we just have a good ol' boy system with the stagnant thinking that goes with it.

    Chile has really strict term limits on their elected leaders and have been able to find the magical balance of a welfare state, growing market economy and limits on power. I say we look to them.

    Interesting, Orion.  I thought their current president was decidedly conservative, though.

    Ultimately, I don't like term limits so much either.  If the people want the same representative over and over, why not?  I'd rather change some of the conditions that give incumbents so many advantages.  Publicly financed elections with no private money, for example, would negate the incumbent fundraising advantage.  That said, this would be better than what we have now.

    At first I thought I was going to object to taking their pensions away.  But the more I think about it, the more I think that these people have to be exposed to the realities of the inadequate 401(k) program. 

    If the people want the same representative over and over, why not? 

    Because they often re-elect guys like this: 

    Also, programs are more likely to be aimed at the people they're supposed to when an elected figure isn't spending all of their time fundraising for the next election cycle.

    That's a pretty bad example, don't you think? Alabama had term limits. So George Wallace ran his wife Lurleen for office instead, and did his 3rd term in the background. If she hadn't had the poor taste to die in office, it would have been a perfect ploy.

    In any case, if the people of Alabama were happy with George Wallace, why is it our business to denounce their choice? Representative government is supposed to express will of the people, not will of some blogger somewhere who doesn't like what people choose.

    Oops, knew something wrong - Alabama had  a 1 term limit - Lurleen ran for his 2nd proxy term.

    Hmmm was not aware of that.

    Publically financed elections with no private money? And how far do you think that would get with this SCOTUS, Des?  401(k)s and Social Security.  Their interestes would be much more aligned with yours and mine if they had to deal with the same system, wouldn't they?

    The State of Idaho has the process of initiative and referendum for passing legislation. In 1994 an initiative establishing term limits for elected federal, state, county, municipal and school district officials passed by popular vote.
     In 1998 an initiative allowing congressional candidates to sign term limits pledge and to inform voters on the ballot if candidate signs or breaks pledge was approved by popular vote.
      In 1996 legislation  passed by initiative instructed candidates for state legislature and U.S. Congress to support congressional term limits or sign a required statement indicating non-support of ballot initiative establishing term limits for elected federal, state, county, and municipal and school district officials. It passed by popular vote.
     In 2002 a number of elected officials who would be affected, that is, they would not be eligible to run for another term, pushed for, in their State Congress among their peers, and got a repeal of the popularly initiated term limit law. The Governor vetoed the new law but within twenty-four hours the State Legislature over-rode his veto. The State was sued in an attempt to maintain the term limit law but the Court ruled that under the State Constitution that any statutory law, as opposed to a State Constitution requirement, could be repealed by the legislature and it did not matter how the law had come into effect.
     The party which had pushed for term limits while saying, "Throw the bums out and elect us for limited terms" blatantly and hypocritically defied the will of the people [as well as their own campaign promises and pledges] which had been explicitly expressed several times. That political party still maintains an overwhelming majority in the State of Idaho.

    I wouldn't expect the jerks to limit themselves voluntarily and stick with it.  These jobs are too cushy and too easy to make into sinecures like I hear Boner (and others I'm sure) has done. That's why I believe the term limits should be a constitutional amendment, just like the presidential limits. 


    I was hoping you were going to tell us how successful the project had been.  I dislike Initiatives and referendums. They're what has gotten CA into so much trouble.  But that's a subject for another blog.

    For several reasons, this is a very bad idea.  If the thought is to reduce the power of lobbyists, then this is the absolute wrong way to go.  Congresspeople do the bidding of well-heeled corporations in order to get political contributions to use to maintain their seat.  Potential candidates for office promise through word and deed to follow a corporatist line in order to get funding to defeat incumbents. 

    In light of the Citizens' United decision, incumbency is the only real bulwark against corporate influence.  After a period of time, constituents come to know and trust their elected representatives and thus are less likely to fall prey to the expensive propaganda top corporate managers use to gull the public into electing bad candidates. 

    Taking away pensions and health care will only make it less likely that anybody but a super-wealthy individual will run for office.

    This "amendment" does not address the revolving door whereby elected officials leave office to become lobbyists and then run for office several years later.

    The problem in politics is the money that buys offices and officeholders.  This bill will only make the situation worse.  It is most likely a Trojan Horse being pushed by corporate interests.

    After a period of time, constituents come to know and trust their elected representatives and thus are less likely to fall prey to the expensive propaganda top corporate managers use to gull the public into electing bad candidates.

    I see this trust in representatives as just the opposite.  Voters are more likely to be lulled and gulled by automatically electing the same old guy time after time.  The lobbyists know them much better than the voters do and know how to manipulate them.

    So term limits is back as another political distraction, eh? Well, can someone point out where the founding fathers discussed whether or not a Congress critters term of office should or should not have time restrictions? I don't believe the thought entered their minds. I'd say they probably felt the longer one held office at the pleasure of their constitutients the better they were able to take care of the wants needs and desires of the state they represented. IMO, all talk of term limits is nothing more than political sour grapes...our guy can't get elected cause the incumbant has it locked up tighter than a drum. Well, all locks have keys.

    I'd say they probably felt the longer one held office at the pleasure of their constitutients the better they were able to take care of the wants needs and desires of the state they represented.

    I'm no historian, but I'd say that George Washington made it pretty clear that he felt the opposite of that, given his "no kings" stance. Of course, George was also against the formation of political parties. Alas, none of his successors felt the same…

    I've always felt the House is more inline with the British House of Commons and the Senate the House of Lords. In fact, the method by which Senators were appointed before the 17th Amendment was a close to creating a lordship class within the US. I can even go a step further in askng if the British Parliament requires term limits on their elected and appointed representatives.

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