Term limits are once again a hot topic in Utah ever since Sen. Orrin Hatch began hinting that he may run for an eighth term in 2018.
His intentions have cast doubt on the prospects of younger Senate hopefuls like former Gov. Jon Huntsman and independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.
Utah State University political science professor Damon Cann says there’s a reason term limits are a perennial favorite of politicians.
“Term limits are a popular populist idea,” he says. “Of course, we have them for president of the United States and some state legislature around the country have term limits as well. And this just builds on the populist momentum that pushed Donald Trump into the White House.”
Now, Utah Sen. Mike Lee has co-sponsored a bill introduced by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida that would limit senators to two terms and members of the House to three terms.
Lee was just re-elected last November to his second six-year term, but has been a vocal supporter of a constitutional amendment on term limits since he first ran for Senate.
“If you can’t get it done in 12 years, then you’d be on your way. If you can get it done in 12 years, you’d be on your way,” he said during a Q&A with constituents at the time.
Cann says the reason term limits don’t get much traction outside the campaign trail is that most politicians change their tune the longer they stay in Washington.
“They’ve been a big fan of term limits until they hit the limit, and then they have concerns about what that can do,” says Cann.
Ultimately, he doesn’t see the newest legislation getting very far despite the resurgence of populist rhetoric. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’s not putting term limits on the GOP agenda this year.
Term Limits Bill - Jan. 2017 on Scribd