It’s been about two decades since Newt Gingrich unveiled the “Contract with America,’ touting specific Republican proposals to require balanced budgets and impose term-limits on members of Congress. In hindsight, the stunt is generally seen as a success – the GOP won the House and Senate in 1994 – but most voters didn’t recognize the “Contract” and its provisions were largely forgotten soon after.
The public-relations gambit came to mind yesterday, however, listening to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) kickoff speech for his presidential campaign:
“Congress has an abysmal record with balancing anything. Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional Amendment!“I have been to Washington and let me tell you – there is no monopoly of knowledge there. I ran for office because we have too many career politicians. I believe it now more than ever. We limit the President to two terms. It’s about time we limit the terms of Congress!”
Behold, the innovative new Republican candidate with a fresh perspective … who also happens to be recycling ideas from 1994.
The senator’s pitch is on weak substantive ground. A balanced budget amendment, to the Constitution, for example, remains the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. For that matter, hearing Rand Paul condemn “career politicians” is amusing given that Ron Paul served 12 terms in Congress and ran for president several times.
Indeed, imagine if Ron Paul was told, just part way through his career, that he could no longer serve in Congress – regardless of whether his constituents supported him; regardless of the quality of the work he was doing – because “conservatives” decided to impose an arbitrary mechanism that artificially limited how often Americans could re-elect their own representatives.
That’s now part of Rand Paul’s “liberty” platform. What’s more, he’s not the only one pushing the idea.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill establishing term limits for members of the House and Senate.Under Marino’s proposal to amend the Constitution, House members could serve up to six two-year terms, while senators would be limited to two six-year terms.Earlier [last] week, Reps. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) created a Congressional Term Limits Caucus for members who support term limits.
I don’t seriously expect the idea to go anywhere, though it’s amazing to me how some of these ridiculous ideas stick around for decades, despite not having any merit.
It’s probably worth reminding these lawmakers that the U.S. political system already has term limits. They’re called elections.
Update: It looks like Tim Fernholz beat me to the punch line on this one, tweeting, “Balanced budget amendment, term limits…is Rand’s platform just Newt Gingrich’s contract with America?”