Sen. Cruz Delivers Opening Remarks as Chairman of Subcommittee on The Constitution in Support of Term Limits for Congress
The American people recognize that congressional term limits would help fix the brokenness and corruption fostered by career politicians in Washington today
June 18, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on The Constitution, today chaired a hearing entitled, "Keeping Congress Accountable: Term Limits in the United States." The hearing examined the use of term limits as an avenue to break the cycle of career politicians and encourage accountability in Congress.
Sen. Cruz previously introduced a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on congressional members with Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) in January of 2019. The amendment was cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Perdue (R-Ga.). Sen. Cruz introduced similar legislation in 2017.
"The rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended in our federal governing bodies," Sen. Cruz said. "To effectively ‘drain the swamp,' and end the phenomenon of career politicians, it is long past time to enact term limits for Congress. I am the author of a constitutional amendment that would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and would limit members of the House of Representatives to three two-year terms. At this point we currently have 14 cosponsors in the Senate. It is my hope that this hearing today will help explain why we should come together, Republicans and Democrats across party lines to enact term limits to protect the American people."
Watch Sen. Cruz's introductory remarks here. A full transcript of Sen. Cruz's introductory remarks is below.
"Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking you all for attending, and thanking Senator Hirono for working with me and my staff to convene this hearing and bring these witnesses together. The topic before us is one, I believe, of great importance: the need for term limits for members of Congress so that we can begin to fix what is broken here in Washington politics.
"Before I introduce our first panel, I'd like to explain why we organized today's hearing.
"[In] the 2016 election, the American people made a resounding call to ‘drain the swamp' that is modern Washington. And sadly this is a bipartisan problem. The American people have lost confidence in Washington, and especially in Congress. It isn't hard to see why. Enmeshed in backroom deals and broken promises, our capital has too often become a political playground for the powerful and the well-connected, for members of the permanent political class looking to accumulate more and more power at the expense of American taxpayers.
"As part of his promise to drain the swamp, President Trump strongly endorsed and campaigned on passing congressional term limits.
‘Though our Founders didn't include term limits in the Constitution, they feared the creation of a permanent political class that existed parallel to, rather than within, American society. As Benjamin Franklin observed, "In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors -- for the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them."
"Their fears of the Framers have today been realized. Today, the swamp is hard at work picking winners and losers, with hardworking Americans typically winding upon the losing end. Every year, Congress spends billions of dollars on giveaways for the well-connected. Washington insiders get taxpayer money; members of Congress get re-elected and the system works for everyone except the American people.
"This kind of self-interest builds on itself as members spend more time in office. In an age in which partisan divide seem intractable, it is remarkable that public support for congressional term limits remains strong across party lines.
"In poll after poll, conducted over decades, Americans who are Republicans, who are Democrats, who are independents; Americans who are conservatives, who are liberals, who are moderates, who are men, who are women; who are Anglo-American, who are African-Americans, who are Hispanic, all support term limits by overwhelming margins.
"For example, a 2018 McLaughlin & Associates poll found that 82 percent of Americans support term limits for Congress, including 89 percent of Republicans, but also 76 percent of Democrats support term limits, 83 percent of independents support term limits, 72 percent of Hispanics support term limits and 70 percent of African Americans support term limits. Indeed the one group it seems in America that doesn't support term limits are career politicians here in Washington. Everybody else recognizes the problem.
"A 2016 Rasmussen poll showed much the same thing as did a 2013 Gallup Poll. These results have been consistent year after year after year.
"Ending that dynamic of Congress enriching insiders and using those insiders to hold on to power favors neither party. It is not a problem with just Republicans or just Democrats. Restoring confidence and accountability in Congress shouldn't be the business of just one party, or of just this Committee, or even of just the Senate. It concerns all Americans, whatever your politics.
"So why hasn't Congress acted already? It's straightforward: too many career politicians don't want to restrict their own power, and neither party wants to act on its own. Still, the American people recognize that congressional term limits would help fix the brokenness and corruption fostered by career politicians in Washington today.
"At our founding, representatives left their homes, their farms, their businesses -- they travelled to Washington to represent their constituents. They served in Congress for a time, but usually returned to their homes and their affairs. Leaders like George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison reached the height of political power -- and then relinquished it to return to private life.
"But today members of Congress aren't doing that. Instead, far too many of our politicians come to Washington to stay; too much of Washington's business is dictated by career politicians, by bureaucrats, and by lobbyists who spent time as one or the other.
"The rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended in our federal governing bodies. To effectively ‘drain the swamp,' and end the phenomenon of career politicians, it is long past time to enact term limits for Congress.
"I am the author of a constitutional amendment that would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and would limit members of the House of Representatives to three two-year terms. At this point we currently have 14 cosponsors in the Senate.
"It is my hope that this hearing today will help explain why we should come together -- Republicans and Democrats across party lines -- to enact term limits to protect the American people. The Senate I believe should take up and vote on the term limits amendment that I've introduced and if Congress will simply listen to the American people, to the overwhelming majorities across party lines that want to see term limits, which we have for the president, see term limits also for Congress, then we can rest confident that the states would quickly ratify that amendment. The only impediment is the United States Congress. And I hope that this hearing and the panel we have today -- the two panels will help move that discussion forward.
"With that, I recognize Senator Hirono."