Sen. Jim DeMint launched a campaign on Tuesday to limit the terms of congressional members. The South Carolina Republican, who is running for his second six-year term in 2010, says House members should be limited to six years in office and senators limited to 12.
DeMint emphatically states that he will not impose a term limit on himself until the law is changed to term limit every member of Congress. But, he leaves plenty of fodder for any candidate seeking to unseat him in 2016 by calling for an end to the “era of permanent politicians.”
“As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buy off special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork — in short, amassing their own power,” he says.
Change in Washington has to come from “new leaders” instead of rearranging the deck chairs of a sinking ship, DeMint says, noting that term limits would “instill transparency and accountability” in congressional members.
“The nation can no longer afford these entrenched men and women who enjoy lives of luxury wholly insulated from the consequences of their major policy failure,” he says.
But (and it’s a big but), DeMint suggested he would not limit his own reign in the Senate to the two-term max he considers so vital.
“We must have term limits for all or term limits will never succeed,” he says. “Only when we apply the same rules to all will we be able to enact vital bipartisan reforms.”
It’s an ironic statement considering DeMint’s self-imposed ban on federal earmarks, funding for projects back home that are decided by lawmakers, sometimes without regard of the project’s needs or value. The two arguments are related — DeMint has often decried earmark spending as a wasteful tool wielded by long-time legislators.
This isn’t DeMint’s first attempt to circumvent Washington’s seniority-based leadership models. After defeat last November, DeMint called for sweeping changes within his own party, suggesting a frustration with being so low on the totem pole in relation to his fellow senators.
“Then, let’s end the seniority system that turns too many Republican outsiders into Washington insiders,” he said at the time. “This requires term limiting our conference leader and appropriations committee members, then choosing committee heads on merit, not seniority.”