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Cruz tries to defend his proposal that would bar his own re-election

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tried to defend his plan to block voters from re-electing lawmakers like him. It didn't go especially well.


Of all Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposals, the Texas Republican’s proposed constitutional amendment on term limits is among the strangest. Under his plan, voters would no longer be allowed to elect U.S. senators to more than two terms, and Americans would also be prevented from electing U.S. House members to more than three terms.

That’s problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the inconvenient fact that Cruz is currently seeking a third term.

The senator’s argument, in effect, is that the Constitution should be changed in order to prevent people from re-electing people like Cruz.

I’ve been eager to hear the Texan defend such a proposal, and thankfully, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan posed the right question during yesterday’s episode of “Face the Nation,” asking Cruz why he isn’t holding himself to his own standard. He replied:

“Well, listen, I’m a passionate defender of term limits. I think that Congress would work much better if every senator were limited to two terms [and] if every House member were limited to three terms. I have introduced a constitutional amendment to put that into the Constitution.”

Oh. So to hear Cruz tell it, we’d all be better off — and Congress would be a more effective institution — if senators were sent home after no more than 12 years.

Cruz is also simultaneously asking Texans to give him a 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th year.

Reminded of this nagging detail, the senator added that he’d “happily comply” with his own proposed constitutional amendment “if and when it passes.” Cruz concluded, “I have never said I’m going to unilaterally comply.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter if, to borrow the GOP lawmaker’s phrasing, Congress “would work much better if every senator were limited to two terms.” What matters more is Cruz’s desire to hold onto power — and his constituents’ willingness to provide him with that power.

He’s “a passionate defender of term limits,” and he claims to have sincere beliefs about the virtues of limiting voters’ ability to re-elect their members of Congress, but Cruz isn’t about to apply his principles to his own career.

To be sure, there are substantive reasons to object to term limits that have nothing to do with the junior senator from the Lone Star State. Revisiting our recent coverage, there’s no reason for the federal government to impose arbitrary legal constraints on voters’ ability to choose their own members of Congress — constraints that punish popular, experienced officials for being popular and experienced.

The fact remains that we already have term limits; they’re called elections. The mechanism for change was built into the Constitution: Voters can evaluate their members of Congress when they run for re-election. If the public is satisfied, those lawmakers stay in office. If not, they’re replaced with someone else. The power is where it belongs: in the hands of the electorate.

Cruz and his cohorts — the proposed constitutional amendment currently has 12 co-sponsors — are apparently convinced that limiting voters’ choices would create a better system. When Cruz is prepared to apply these standards to himself, it might be a little easier to take his plan seriously.

Postscript: The newest co-sponsor to the term limits amendment is Sen. Marco Rubio. Last year, the Florida Republican was re-elected to ... wait for it ... a third term.