Despite taking some steps to push for congressional term limits, President Donald Trump has run into almost insurmountable obstacles with congressional leaders — much less enacting the required constitutional amendment.

Here’s what Trump has tried: In April 2018, Trump cheered on a bipartisan group of lawmakers who met with him and discussed their support term limits for members of Congress. The lawmakers included Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.; Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas; Jodey Arrington, R-Texas; Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., CNN reported.

“I recently had a terrific meeting with a bipartisan group of freshman lawmakers who feel very strongly in favor of Congressional term limits,” he tweeted. “I gave them my full support and endorsement for their efforts. #DrainTheSwamp.”

The following month, some of the lawmakers who met with Trump released a proposal to limit senators to two terms and House members to six terms.

Several pieces of legislation were introduced in the Congress that just ended, but those would have to be reintroduced in the new Congress to be pursued further.

And as a constitutional amendment, the bar for enactment is especially high: two-thirds of the House and Senate and ratification by two-thirds of the states.

And congressional leaders are likely to remain an obstacle.

In a November 2016 press conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was asked if the Senate would consider legislation to limit terms. McConnell responded, “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections. And it will not be on the agenda in the Senate.”

We checked with his office, and a spokesman said that McConnell’s position remains the same two years on. McConnell’s opposition alone makes it nearly impossible for the idea to be considered in the Senate while he’s leader, which essentially puts the kibosh on the idea.

We also checked with the office of expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A spokesman said he was unaware of any push from Pelosi’s office to seek term limits. (In negotiations with fellow Democrats, Pelosi did agree to a two-term limit on her own speakership, but that’s different from term limits for all members of Congress.)

If the movement for term limits gathers steam, we’ll reconsider. But right now, strong opposition from the Senate leadership means congressional term limits rate as a Promise Broken.

McConnell poses big obstacle to enacting congressional term limits

Now that he’s president, Donald Trump’s promise to enact congressional term limits is getting a modicum of support in the House, but it faces a firm roadblock in the Senate — not to mention an arduous path through the nation’s state legislatures if it somehow clears both hurdles on Capitol Hill.

As we have noted, enacting term limits can only be done through a constitutional amendment. That’s an arduous process that has only been achieved 27 times in the nation’s history.

There’s a sliver of good news for Trump in the House, where eight bills to impose term limits have been introduced by a variety of Republican lawmakers.

In addition, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, where it has secured co-sponsorship by 10 of his colleagues.

However, in his post-election press conference in November, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was asked if the Senate would consider legislation to limit terms.

McConnell responded, “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections. And it will not be on the agenda in the Senate.”

Since McConnell essentially has the authority to determine what business the Senate takes up, his opposition is an almost insurmountable obstacle.


U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) today introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on members of Congress. The amendment would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms.

“For too long, members of Congress have abused their power and ignored the will of the American people,” Sen. Cruz said. “Term limits on members of Congress offer a solution to the brokenness we see in Washington, D.C. It is long past time for Congress to hold itself accountable. I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification.”

Francis Rooney stated, “The American people support term limits by an overwhelming margin. I believe that as lawmakers, we should follow the example of our founding fathers, Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who refused to consider public service as a career. Our history is replete with examples of leaders who served their country for a time and returned to private life, or who went on to serve in a different way.”

The amendment was cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Perdue (R-Ga.).

The full amendment may be viewed here. Sen. Cruz introduced a similar amendment in January of 2017.



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