Republicans to Trump: Lukewarm on chairmen term limits

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Trump is not finding much support among Republicans for his idea of extending term limits for committee chairmen.

The president tweeted about the need to extend or remove the six-year term limit for committee leaders that is imposed by the GOP, something the Democrats do not have, prompting many Republicans to push back on the idea despite the growing number of veteran lawmakers who are retiring.

The term limit, according to Trump, “forces great people, and real leaders, to leave after serving,” noting that the Democrats’ rule allowing unlimited terms is “a better way to go.”

But some Republicans thought the president was way off the mark with his idea.

“We have the term limits in place for a reason: to make sure that we continue to turn over the leadership to, I wouldn’t say younger, but fresh ideas among other members, and to keep people interested in staying here” in Congress, Rep. David Joyce told The Hill.

“Otherwise, if members know they have to stay 20 to 30 years before they get a chance to be chairman, why would they do it?” the Ohio Republican and member of the House Appropriations Committee asked.

So far this election cycle, Republicans have seen 15 members of the House announce they will be leaving their current office to either retire, resign or run for another office.

According to The Hill:

GOP rules, first enacted in 1995, state that the time a lawmaker serves as either chairman or ranking member counts toward the six-year term limit. In rare cases, the GOP Steering Committee has granted a waiver, like it did in 2012 when it extended then-Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) tenure as head of the Budget Committee.


Former Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah and former Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas are affected on their panels by those term limits. Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced he is not running for reelection, after serving 21 terms in the House and having chaired the Judiciary and Science committees.

Other GOP lawmakers facing term limits in 2020 include Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry who serves on the Armed Services Committee and Rep. Kevin Brady, also of Texas, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee and reportedly ignored a question about his plans, according to The Hill.

Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, who is serving on the Small Business Committee, is also on the rumor list as is former Energy and Commerce chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

Though they have not announced they will be making an exit after their term is up, they could potentially be caught in the system Trump was criticizing.

Thornberry did, in fact, tell a Texas television station that he had not decided if he would be running for reelection even as five Texas Republicans announced that they are leaving the House.

“I’ll have a final decision and announcement on that before too long,” he told KXAN-TV.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise was not sold on the idea of extending the existing GOP term limits.

“It’s something that our conference put in place years ago and I think it’s a real contrast with the Democrats,” the Louisiana Republican told reporters. “They can serve 30 years and some of them are chairman almost forever and so it takes away from other members of the committee who think they have a chance to become a chairman.

“Someone who does a great job as chairman, they’ve got their time to make their six years count, and [then] someone else will have an opportunity,” he said.

Trump was asked about his concerns over the recent GOP congressional retirements on Monday.

“Well, one of the things is that I disagree with the Republican system,” he told reporters on the White House grounds before departing on Marine One.

“When you’re the chairman of a committee — we’ve lost chairmen because they can’t go from being a chairman, back to being a regular congressman or woman. When you’re the chairman of a committee, the Democrats, you can stay there forever … they’re there forever. As a Republican, you get six years,” Trump added.

“What happens after they’re finished, they leave. And I understand that. And, frankly, there is good to be said about both and there’s bad to be said about both, to use the famous expression,” the president cautioned. “But let me just tell you, I agree — one of the only things I agree with the Democrats on: I really think it’s better to have a longer term.”


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Frieda Powers


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