Term Limits and the US Constitution

Would implementing term limits in the US Congress require a constitutional amendment, or could a rule be voted by both houses of Congress to make that change?

Just like limiting the President to 2 terms, it would require a constitutional amendment.

Well, the Constitution does give each House the power to determine its own rules, and to determine the qualifications of their own members. Throughout history there have been several examples of each House refusing to seat a member who may have otherwise been met the required qualifications. Several Southern Democrats in the reconstruction era were refused seats in the House because of suspected voter fraud or intimidation. More recently, Roland Burris was initially refused a seat by the Senate in the midst of the Rod Blogojevich scandal in Illinois, but they later relented.

So it seems to me that the House and Senate could adopt term limit rules if they chose, but it would be up to them to enforce the rules, and each House could undo them if they desired, or ignore them at will.

Just for comparative reference, no state legislature in the US has adopted term limits through the mechanism of internal rules, either, but always through either statute or constitutional provision. Another issue at work is the actual elections are run at the state level under state laws, and while Federal Law preempts State Law, internal rules of the House and Senate do not.

Ummm… not quite and to answer the OP

Ths State of Washington et al. implemented term limits for their Congressmen. It was ruled unconstitutional as states cannot add to the requirements of eligibility to run for Congress.

Saint Cad, I think JRD was talking about term limits for state legislators.

The House and Senate could, I suppose, implement term limits by refusing to seat legislators, but in real life I think it’d be pretty hard to turn away someone elected by the citizens with no suggestion of fraud or misconduct.

While I’m sure that the courts would give considerable leeway to each House in exercising its constitutional powers, I would suspect that courts would question whether either house was carrying out its constitutional powers by quite simply nullifying various elections. Some limits are already established.

Sure, if the Senate thinks that an election was rigged, I don’t believe anyone would bat an eye if the Senate refused to seat someone who won a shady election. But refusing to accept the election based on prior government service? I think that’s pretty shaky ground.

Are you sure? The OP was talking about the Federal Congress.

I thought Presidential term limits required an amendment because otherwise it would be one branch infringing on another. That would leave open both house’s right to set limits on their own members that could include term limits.

“no state legislature in the US has adopted term limits through the mechanism of internal rules”

to me clearly refers to a state legislature setting limits on itself, because a state legislature’s internal rules couldn’t possibly apply to Congress.

JRD is comparing how it’s been done at the state level to what might be done at the federal level.

Exactly. And I did preface it by saying “for comparative reference”. Thanks for filling in, TSBG.

BUT for comparative reference the states do have an initiative process they can use called an Article V convention. I wonder if any states has petitioned Congress for a convention re: term limits.

You and I seem to have a different understanding of what “comparative reference” means, Saint Cad.

To be absolutely clear: Nothing in my statement was about **a means for the states to pass term limits upon Congress. ** I was comparing the ways in which legislative entities impose term limits upon themselves, as a follow-up to the question **friedo brought up about whether Congress could term-limit itself through purely internal rules.

As to your current question, that puts us back where we started: that it requires a constitutional amendment. And in this specific question, it goes to an unresolved issue: whether you can call a Limited Constitutional Convention for the specific purpose of making one amendment or amendments circumscribed to one subject matter, as opposed to a general revision.

OK got it now.