Francis Rooney Introduces the Thomas Jefferson Public Service Act – Term Limits Without Amending the Constitution
Washington, DC – Congressman Francis Rooney issued the following statement as he introduced the Thomas Jefferson Public Service Act:
The idea of citizen legislators, espoused by our Founding Fathers, centers on the discussion of term limits. Many voters across the country and legislators across party lines have expressed support for term limits, making the idea one which attracts bi-partisan support.
When my home state of Florida passed term limits, 76% of Sunshine State voters voted in favor. In fact, Florida is one of 15 states to currently have legislative term limits. This year, a nationwide poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found that 82% of voters support Congressional term limits, including 89% of Republicans, 83% of independents, and 76% of Democrats.
Despite clearly expressed views of the American people, some argue that term limits would overly empower unelected staff and bureaucracy. Others argue that a semi-permanent legislative class is the best way Congress should function, despite how the Founders fought a revolution to get away from exactly this.
Although 15 states have instituted term limits, the situation is more complicated at the federal level. Heretofore, federal term limit discussions have focused on proposals which require amending the Constitution. These well-intentioned efforts, in the form of at least 12 bills in the current session of Congress, with over 90 co-sponsors, are stymied by the arduous process of amending the Constitution.
Perhaps a new approach to the issue of term limits would correct this problem. To this end, along with seven of my fellow Congressmen, I have introduced the Thomas Jefferson Public Service Act of 2018. This proposal offers a means of effectively putting capitated service, i.e. “term limits,” in place without amending the Constitution. The Act will reduce the salary of an elected Member of Congress to $1 a year after they serve six (6) consecutive terms in the House or two (2) consecutive terms in the Senate, and does not require a Constitutional amendment.
Is it possible that a disruptive, game-changing measure like this could instill public confidence in Congress and set the stage for a wave of innovation and accomplishment?
From the time of Cincinnatus, who twice entered public service to save Rome from attack and then duly returned to work his farm, to Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who refused to consider public service as a career, 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. For example, after serving as President, John Quincy Adams became a member of the House and had been a Senator prior to service as our Ambassador to Russia and the United Kingdom.
Even though some Washington pundits and some of the so-called “special interests” might disagree, I would argue that regular rotation of elected officials would stimulate more fresh ideas and make our legislators more independent. Once these limits take root, a new culture might arise which would be indomitable.
Many states have had this positive experience with their term limits. They certainly work well in Florida. Contrary to arguments that term limits would overly empower unelected voices, the experience with term limits in Florida demonstrates otherwise. State government has shrunk, spending is under control, and the people overwhelmingly support this system.
The Thomas Jefferson Public Service Act could help more closely align the Congress with the electorate.