Term limits and the magic clause that can make them happen

Like many conservatives, I am in favor of term limits for members of both houses of Congress.  Determined citizens have been trying for over 30 years to get this done without success.  I believe we will never pass a Term Limits Amendment to the U.S. Constitution unless it contains this Magic Clause:

"[These provisions] shall not apply to any Senator or Representative serving in Congress at the time this amendment is ratified."

If the Republicans take both houses of Congress in the 2022 election, it might be possible to get a majority in each house to pass an amendment without the Magic Clause.  But that won't be enough because the Constitution requires more than a majority.  Instead, you need two thirds of both houses to propose it, and then you need three-fourths of the state legislatures to ratify it.  Two-thirds of both houses is a very tall order!

But maybe we can meet that tall order if we're clever about it.  Here are my ideas for a Term Limits Amendment:

Clause 1. No US Representative shall serve more than six consecutive two-year terms without taking a two-year hiatus from the House. Any person appointed to the House of Representatives shall be limited to five full terms after his or her initial term is completed.

Clause 2. No US Senator shall serve more than three consecutive six-year terms without taking a two-year hiatus from the Senate. Any person appointed to the Senate must stand for election within two years and shall be limited to two full terms after his or her initial term is completed.

Clause 3. Clauses 1 and 2 above shall not apply to any Senator or Representative serving in Congress at the time this amendment is ratified.

Clause 4. No person shall serve as a Congressional staffer in either house for more than ten years total. Any time already served as a Congressional staffer on the day this amendment is ratified shall not count towards that ten-year total.

Great Americans like you and me can argue about the exact number of years for each house, and for the congressional staffers.  But here's what I think: if you set the numbers too low, your proposal will be seen as radical, and you will not get three fourths of the state legislatures to ratify it.  Like it or not, we need votes from independents, moderates, and even conservatives who believe that each house needs something called "institutional memory" — the wisdom of experienced leaders who know how things get done.

Image: United States Congress, edited by Andrea Widburg using FreeIconsPng image.  Public domain.

Now, some will say Congressman X or Senator Y is a great, wise leader and that he should not be term-limited.  My plan gives such leaders the ability to take a two-year break for study or outside work and then run again.  That's not an easy thing to do, but it's not impossible.  They also have the option of switching houses immediately — again, not an easy thing to do.

Clause 4, which limits the tenure of congressional staffers, is my attempt to ensure that unelected bureaucrats working behind the scenes do not acquire more experience and power than the members they serve.

Some say that the terms of House members should be four years instead of two because, as soon as representatives are elected, they begin running for their next term.  I would not be opposed to such a change, with elections staggered every two years (though re-districting might complicate this plan).  If House terms were lengthened to four years, then each representative should be limited to three such terms (still 12 years).

My plan would take some time to have a great effect, but maybe less time than you think.  Or we could strip it of the Magic Clause, lower the number of terms, and wait another 30 years for a "better" plan to pass.

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