Citizens of the United States often complain that their Congressional representatives and senators focus on ensuring continual reelection over effectively governing the nation. Desire to maintain political power discourages members of Congress from tackling politically sensitive and often times vitally important issues, resulting in the crippling gridlock we have experienced over the past decade. While it seems like an easy fix to this problem is to create term limits for representatives and senators, effecting change in this area is not as easy as it sounds.
One proposed solution to the problem is a constitutional amendment limiting the amount of time individuals can serve in the House and in the Senate. Jim DeMint, a former Republican senator from South Carolina and a prominent figure in the Tea Party movement, proposed an amendment in 2009 which would limit representatives to three terms (six years) and senators to two terms (twelve years). The proposed amendment went to the Senate Judiciary committee where, to the surprise of nobody, it never saw the light of day.
Article V of the Constitution outlines two possible ways for the nation to amend the document. Supposing it had made it through the committee, these two methods pose the primary stumbling block for DeMint’s plan. The first requires two-thirds of both the House (291 representatives) and the Senate (67 senators) to approve the proposed amendment, which then goes out to the states, three-fourths (38 states) of which must approve it. The other method bypasses Congress all together by allowing for two-thirds (34 states) of the states to call for a constitutional convention to propose new amendments. The states, however, have never employed the latter method.