Fitzpatrick remains ‘heart and soul’ behind push for congressional term limits

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

Term limits for members of Congress would change the dysfunction plaguing Capitol Hill lawmakers and strengthen the nation’s democracy, said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) speaking from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“A lot of our colleagues here, when you are dealing with the rigors of this job … give you one piece of advice: Never forget why you ran. Just remember that theme that caused you to make that difficult decision. I think that the reason we all ran was this: term limits to fix a broken system,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said earlier this month speaking from the left side of the aisle in a sign of solidarity and bipartisanship with colleague U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

Imposing congressional term limits would require a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of members in both chambers, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Reps. Fitzpatrick and Khanna were joined on the floor by fellow freshmen members U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). They all are part of a bipartisan group who on May 10 introduced House Joint Resolution (H.J.Res.) 134, which would impose term limits on members of Congress. The resolution states that no person could serve as a representative for more than six two-year terms and that senators would be limited to serving no more than two six-year terms. Such a change would apply to the current 115th Congress and beyond.

H.J.Res. 134 has been under review by the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice since May 22.

“We believe we can actually make real change with real reforms like term limits,” Rep. Arrington said in introducing Rep. Fitzpatrick to speak, calling the Pennsylvania lawmaker the “heart and soul of this initiative.”

Rep. Fitzpatrick said congressional term limits is an issue that unites 80 percent of Americans. “How many issues are out there that enjoy the support of 80 percent of the American people?” he asked.

Formerly the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s political corruption unit, Rep. Fitzpatrick said when he previously worked in that position and went home at night, he would sometimes mull how to “change the brokenness” of Congress if ever given a policymaking role. “At the top of that list, Mr. Speaker, was legislative term limits,” the congressman said.

President George Washington set the tradition of congressional term limits in motion, said Fitzpatrick.
“He said he only wanted to serve one term, go back to his farm in Mount Vernon, live under the laws he helped pass, make way for a new generation of leadership. That is the most organic way to serve a democracy. It is the healthiest form of democracy,” the lawmaker said.

And while Washington got talked into serving a second term, he refused to serve any more, “a tradition that every single president honored, up until FDR served four terms, at which point Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution,” Fitzpatrick said.

“But true to form, they applied it to the executive,” he said. “They did not apply it to themselves.”
In calling for a constitutional amendment for term limits, the congressman asked: “Is there anybody in this chamber who does not agree with this very basic principle, this very basic premise, that more organic change in this organization, in this body, is a good thing?”

Such an amendment, he added, would be a good thing for Congress and for the country. “It is not just from the corruption standpoint; it is from the getting along standpoint,” Fitzpatrick noted.

“So much of what we deal with in this House, so much of what we deal with in this country are symptoms. It is symptomatic of what the root issues are. The root issues get to the functionality of this body,” he said, noting that the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus earlier this year introduced an essential Break the Gridlock package also aimed at changing how congressional members operate.

“When we do that, we will win back the trust and support of the American people, too many of whom have lost faith in this institution – and for good reason,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said.