Term Limits for Congress, Part II

In my first article, appearing in the March issue of the Independent Gazette, I made the case that term limits are merely a solution to the wrong problem. Our federal Constitution provides the proper mechanism for congressional turnover, namely, regular elections. I also noted that according to surveys only about one-third of voters actually want to return an incumbent to Washington, yet incumbents are rarely defeated in their re-election bids.

Why is it, then, that we do not vote incumbents out when we don’t really care to see them re-elected?

My answer: voters scarcely are given a good alternative to keeping the current bum in office.

Let’s take my own congressman, Lou Barletta, as a case in point. I love Lou as an individual. My wife and I campaigned for him, distributed signs, and handed out literature for him. My wife made phone calls on his behalf. We even held a special event to give him, and some other candidates, greater exposure. We were elated when he was elected to Congress for the first time in 2010, and we had high hopes that he would be more than just an acceptable alternative to the legislator he replaced. What we really wanted was someone who would stand for our federal Constitution and our liberties.

I am first and foremost an American beholden to the American charter, the Constitution


But our delight soon soured into disappointment—and at his first town hall meeting in our area, no less. He was justified in his clear opposition to Obamacare. But he then proceeded to speak about a GOP alternative to it and in so doing completely ignored the fact that the US Constitution nowhere authorizes the Congress to legislate in the area of healthcare. I rose to my feet to explain the constitutional issue, but it apparently fell on deaf ears. Lou subsequently voted to extend the debt ceiling, voted to extend the USA PATRIOT Act, voted for the 2012 and 2013 NDAA bills, complete with their onerous indefinite detention provisions, and made other votes which clearly defy our Constitution and frustrate our liberties.

To be sure, we applaud him for his stand against illegal immigration as well as his stances on behalf of other conservative principles. And we have told him as much.

However, when the next election cycle rolled around in 2012, voters ended up with a choice of two more years of Lou (with who knows how many other liberty-robbing unconstitutional votes that would follow), or two years of a progressive Democrat who couldn’t debate his way out of a political paper bag. These were the only two options presented to voters on the ballot.

And although it was not the case in this race, there were other races in our state where candidates offered themselves as alternative choices to the status quo, but were then denied “ballot access” (appearance on the final ballot displayed at the polls) courtesy of legal challenges to their nomination petitions filed by none other than GOP-financed “objectors.” It seems that there is more interest in keeping power than serving the public.

So, what are voters to do, but to opt for the “lesser of two evils?” Calling Lou “evil” is not my intent. I hold no malice toward him. But frankly, he does not understand our Constitution or the liberty-oriented ideas of our Founders, and should not be in Congress voting in contradiction to our Constitution when he swore an oath to uphold it.

A Republican (such as yours truly) making statements such as these may be viewed by party faithful as nothing less than treasonous—but I speak the truth. I am first and foremost an American beholden to the American charter, the Constitution. After that, I am a Republican. I believe in principle before party.

isn’t it about time we allow people with fresh ideas, moral courage, and constitutional principles to grace our ballots in greater numbers?


So, what is the answer to the matter of ballot choice? Enter the Voters’ Choice Act. This act, introduced by Pennsylvania Senator Mike Folmer and identified as SB 195, would eliminate unfair hurdles to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. The current law can require such candidates for public office to obtain as many as 34 times the number of signatures necessary for Democrats and Republicans.

Many fear such a proposal because it loosens their control on the system, returning it to the electorate, in whose hands it belongs in the first place. But in a system such as ours which suffers from acute voter apathy, a serious lack of public confidence, and wide-ranging skepticism of anything and anyone political, isn’t it about time we allow people with fresh ideas, moral courage, and constitutional principles to grace our ballots in greater numbers?

What have we got to lose but our apathy, our skepticism, and our downward slide into tyranny? What we will gain is a greater degree of voter participation in the system, a greater variety of candidate options, and the power to once again be able to “throw the bums out,” thus negating the need for term limits at all.

The fear we ought to possess is of institutionalized tyranny, made possible by the restriction of the people to freely choose their own destiny.

I urge you to call your state senator today and plead with him or her to support and co-sponsor SB 195.

  • Michael Harrison
  • http://www.nepaliberty.com
  • Michael Harrison is founder of the Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty group and hosts an online blog at unleashingliberty.wordpress.com

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