Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon has proposed legislation to impose term limits on Congress, a proposal that could one day leave him without a job.
Salmon’s bill, which was introduced April 23, would restrict representatives to three two-year terms and senators to two six-year terms.
The bill also would prohibit the route Salmon took in his political career. No one could return to Washington after meeting the limit of terms, even if they sat out for a few years.
Salmon had served three terms in Congress in the 1990s but ended his congressional tenure to follow a pledge that he would serve only three terms.
Last year, Salmon won a congressional post.
“I think a lot of people start out full of idealism and fresh ideas. And then a lot of times being re-elected becomes more important than staying true to your principles,” Salmon told The Arizona Republic.
Salmon of Mesa was part of the 1994 wave of Republican freshmen who took control of the House for the first time since the 1950s and who championed term limits and other priorities laid out in their party’s Contract with America.
But the House failed to pass a term-limits bill. And out of more than 70 members who said they would impose term limits on themselves after six years in office if a bill failed, Salmon and about a half dozen other members of the class honored their pledge and stepped down.
Salmon regrets leaving to this day and said this time around will be different. “I’m not term-limiting myself again,” he said. “Not until everybody else does.”
Salmon’s bill faces steep challenges. It would amend the Constitution, which requires support of two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states. Similar proposals have failed going back decades.
Philip Blumel, president of the advocacy organization U.S. Term Limits, said term limits foster more competition in elections, limit the influence of special-interest lobbyists and dislodge entrenched politicians from their seats. Nearly 300 current U.S. senators and representatives have served for longer than Salmon’s legislation would allow. Term limits would “shake up” Washington, Blumel said.
Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, a political science professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who has studied the effects of term limits on Michigan’s state legislature, said in reality term limits have the opposite outcome.
Sarbaugh-Thompson said, in her review, that term limits have led to inexperienced lawmakers who lack the know-how to provide strong oversight of agencies and can be manipulated more easily by lobbyists. Special-interest money still flows, it just does so after elections, she said.
And though a throng of candidates may compete for a seat after it is vacated, in the intervening years, few challenge the incumbents, she said.