Does Sen. Lee oppose Sen. Hatch running next year?

I got an email from something called U.S. Term Limits commending Utah’s new senator, Mike Lee, for signing on as co-sponsor to a proposed Constitutional Amendment limiting US Senators to two terms in office, and Representatives to three.

This means, I suppose, that he thinks Rob Bishop has been in office long enough and Sen. Hatch has overstayed his welcome by a massive amount.

People are fond of reminding Sen. Hatch that he ran for office originally saying his predecessor, Frank Moss, after three terms, had lost touch with his constituancy and needed to go home. “What do you call a senator who’s been in office 24 years? You call him home” was the campaign slogan, I believe.

By that measure Hatch, going now for his 7th term, should have been called home twice, and he’s so far in violation of Lee’s proposed amendment that I imagine Lee spits at Orrin when they meet in the hallways of Congress.

OK, maybe not.

It will be doubly interesting, presuming Lee is reelected in six years, to see if he, then, announces his own refusal to serve more. If he does not, and uses the lack of a constitutional amendment forcing him to as his excuse, we will have to assume his stance now is only so much posturing, just like Hatch’s was in 1976.

Because, really, your beliefs are what you do regardless, not what you do because you are forced to.

I couldn’t find a link to the specific press release they emailed me, so I will append the text here. It contains the relevant links:

U.S. Term Limits commends Senator Lee for Cosponsoring
Congressional Term Limits Constitutional Amendment

April 15, 2011, Fairfax, VA—U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel praised Senators Jim DeMint and Mike Lee introducing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would set term limits on members of Congress.

The Constitutional Amendment would allow members of the House of Representatives to serve a maximum of three terms of two years, and Senators would be limited to two terms of six years each.

“The waves of change that have hit Washington, DC over the past couple of election cycles would be meaningful if those who lead Congress and its committees weren’t standard political insiders with little connection remaining to those who they were elected to serve.  Today, Senators DeMint and Lee have taken a bold step to change the culture of corruption and entitlement in our nation’s capitol,” Blumel said.

78 percent of Americans support congressional term limits according to a September 2010 FoxNews Public Opinion Dynamics poll of registered voters.  Enjoying overwhelming bi-partisan support, 74 percent of Democrats polled favored term limits with 84 percent of Republicans indicating support. 

The poll showed that support has jumped by 8 percent from the last nationwide poll conducted by the same firm in March 2009 poll registered that 70 percent of Americans supported congressional term limits.

“The myth that professional legislators are needed to deal with the complexity of government today is exposed by the $14.3 trillion national debt hole that has been created by the very professional politicians who make this argument.  We can no longer afford career politicians who defer tough decisions to commissions and other non-elected bodies.  Limiting terms will allow citizen legislators to come to Washington, DC, fix the problems and then go home to resume their lives, instead of becoming encamped in the cloistered world inside the DC Beltway,” Blumel concluded.

Passage of the Constitutional Amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives followed by passage in 37 states.  It is anticipated that a companion bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives.

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6 Responses to Does Sen. Lee oppose Sen. Hatch running next year?

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    Charlie, Lee has not specifically endorsed Hatch in next year’s election, which most regard as a man hedging his bets.

  2. Bob Becker says:

    There are two arguments, and not trivial ones, against the idea of constitutionally enforced term limits on Congressmen and Senators. First, experience in those difficult jobs [and they are difficult if you intend to do them well] presumably makes those who acquire it more effective representatives. Much experience will be lost if members of the House are rotated out after six years and senators after eight.

    The second argument, the one I consider the more serious of the two, is that it thwarts the will of the people, who may wish for reasons they consider excellent, to re-elect a three term Congressman to a fourth term or a two term Senator to a third time. I’m not all that comfortable with attempting to artificially thwart the will of the people expressed at the polls, even when they express that will in what I consider appalling ways [e.g. re-electing the bone dumbest man in the US Senate, the Hon. [?] Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma, or the most Hypocritical man in the House, the Hon.[?] Rob Bishop].

    Elections ought to reflect the will of the people, however informed or uninformed that will may be. And mandated term limits would in many cases unquestionably prevent the re-election of the the people’s choice. That’s not something we ought to sign on to lightly or without a great deal of thought.

  3. Gj says:

    Mr. Becker ignores one critical fact that has changed our politics in the last 50 years. The capture of elected officials by interest groups. Money flows to incumbents at ten times the rate that it does it challengers. With this campaign advantage our incumbents are virtually guaranteed re-election; there is no such thing in modern politics as “the will of the people”, although it is still a quaint notion. Incumbents in the Senate and House are getting re-elected in the 90% range.

    • Bob Becker says:

      You wrote: “Incumbents in the Senate and House are getting re-elected in the 90% range.”

      Notice the word bold-faced above? Re-elected. Whether the voters chose wisely or not, whether they cast informed votes or not, whether they voted for substantial reasons or trivial ones, they voted to return 90 percent or so of the members of Congress. Voted to return.

      There have been times in our past where the same has been true. Following the end of Reconstruction and the return of white dominance in the former Confederate states, no Republican was going to be able to challenge and incumbent Democrat. The “Solid South” was called that for a reason. That Democratic dominance in the white south lasted until the national Democratic Party under Lyndon Johnson embraced civil rights for blacks, and wrote it into national law. Whereupon the South began became the reliably Republican bastion it is today.

      Over on the Volokh Conspiracy blog [a libertarian/conservative legal blog] they had a discussion going sometime last week or so about whether ignorance of facts regarding public policy, or even government [how a law is made, who is your Representative, who are your Senators, what percentage of national spending goes to foreign aid, etc.] is or should be a reason to disqualify people from voting. Should people have to pass a “fact” test first? [My view: no way.]

      If voters permit themselves to be manipulated by slick advertising to vote for the candidate with the most bucks, well, then they get the government they deserve. And yes, I know how hard it is to get a campaign message out without money. {I’m a Weber County Democrat. Believe me, I know.} But that doesn’t eliminate the responsibility of voters to inform themselves, and to cast knowledgeable votes. The buck stops with them, no matter how much money candidate X drops in the race.

      The one solution that I find attractive has no chance of being adopted, particularly not with the present line up of the Supreme Court: public-funded elections, with each candidate for a particular office getting the same pot of money with which to make his case to the voters. Period. But that’s a pipe dream and isn’t going to happen in my lifetime, or yours.

      Democracy’s messy. Voters don’t always inform themselves before casting a ballot. They often vote for non-rational reasons ["he has an honest face"] rather than on issues. But there it is. That’s democracy for you in large popular republics. The only thing that can be said for it is, it’s a better system, and less likely to produce tyranny over the long term, than any other that has so far been devised.

      • Gj says:

        Dr. Becker,
        I often read your comments and know you to be a thoughtful and expert historian. I appreciate your response, but let me use some political science theory to address several of what I believe to be mistaken assumptions on your part.
        1.) Money buys elections. Incumbents have huge advantages (regardless of party). Madison was opposed to a permanent political class and therefore designed a system with frequenst elections, based on every elected official (with the sole exception of the president) representing a very small subset of the electorate. Older, attentive voters get what they want. Younger, poorer, less well educated and propertied voters (if they vote) lose.
        2.) Politicians do not (nowadays) “represent” voters in the way you assume. They “craft” ( apoli sci euphemism for lie) voter opinion by tailoring their policy positions to tell the voters who voted for them and will probably vote them again, what they want to hear. In short, the represenative process is dynamic and interactive. For instance, during the Vietnam era (I’m on your turf here) when Dem and Rep elite politicians radically altered their policy positions on the key issues of the day (Vietnam, Civil rights) they did so to get re-elected, not for the reason stated that it was “the right thing to do.’ Political discourse is almost always partisan posturing, but of course no politician can make that explicit. Voters like to imagine that they are principal decisionmakers. they are not, not even when selecting representatives, as you assume. Rather, the empirical political science and political psychology literature makes a convincing case that voters are simply pawns that give legitimacy to career politicians.
        3.) Politicians are “single minded seekers of re-election.” This value trumps all policy goals. Incumbents have name recognition, free mailing privledges, a built-in media machine, the average House member has 25 staff members, more than half of them are spending more than half their time on fundraising and re-election. incumbents serve on committees that can bring home the bacon to the district. Incumbents quickly become wealthy and cozy with interest groups who have strong incentives to keep them in office. Challengers have none of these structural advantages. The voter is not “re-electing” anyone, by and large and to think otherwise in some romantic nineteenth centery naive way is to illustrate a shallow understanding of modern American democrasy, with all due respect.

  4. Stephen M. Cook says:

    The House is subject to short-sighted popular whim; the Senate is intended to be a bit less subject to the whims of the unwashed electorate.

    I cannot think of a time in recent history where this would be less appropriate.

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