A substantial number of Americans heartily support efforts to “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC. The term “drain the swamp” means to drastically reduce the number of self-serving, power-hungry politicians (Republicans and Democrats alike), lobbyists, and government workers in and around Washington, DC, who strive (live!) for self-enrichment to the detriment of America and the nation as a whole.
Many are calling President Donald Trump a “disrupter” who favors, among other things, term limits for members of Congress and possibly other federal officials in an effort to drain the Washington, DC, swamp.
Term limits in this instance mean putting a limit on the total number of years that an individual can serve as a member of Congress and perhaps serve in other high ranking federal positions to include the federal judiciary.
While the president’s words are “music to the ears” of many Americans, absolutely nothing will happen until and unless the Congress agrees to put such a limit on the number of years the members can serve. Good luck with that!
Even if the president succeeds in other areas that contribute to draining the swamp, his efforts may prove to be short-term successes depending on which political party wins the White House after President Trump leaves office. Hence, America needs a long-term solution for draining the swamp irrespective of who controls the White House and Congress.
Broadly speaking, many Americans agree with the president that the federal government has become far too powerful and routinely oversteps/abuses its constitutional authority as envisioned by America’s Founders.
Truly meaningful and long-range change to the way the federal government operates, including term limits for high ranking federal officials, requires certain amendments to the United States Constitution. Unsurprisingly, the Congress has proven itself incapable or unwilling to propose such amendments. Thus, it is up to the state legislatures, using their authority in Article V of the Constitution, to call for a convention to propose the necessary amendments.
Below are two examples where constitutional amendments need to be proposed by state legislators and then ratified by 38 state legislatures to become part of the Constitution and law of the land:
(1) Serving in Congress has become a long-term, often self-serving profession rather than a privilege of public service and relatively short-term civic duty as envisioned by America’s Founders in 1787. Back then, the average lifespan was approximately 50 years which means the Founders were not terribly concerned about people serving in Congress in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
It is a known fact that various mental abilities usually diminish in older age, but yet there are many deeply entrenched, elderly people continuing to serve in Congress (and in the federal judiciary). Members of Congress refuse to move forward with an amendment to the Constitution to limit the total number of years (12 to 15 years for example) that a member can serve. Such an amendment should allow many more citizens to serve in Congress — hopefully with new ideas, greater energy, sharper minds, and much less indebtedness to various interest groups and donors.
(2) America today has a national debt of over 20 trillion dollars! The interest that has to be paid on this amount of debt could soon amount to more than America’s national defense expenditures — a totally untenable situation.
Exacerbating this problem is the fact that members of Congress refuse to move forward with an amendment to the Constitution requiring the federal government to fiscally constrain itself and responsibly operate on a bona fide balanced budget.
I believe that the above amendments plus others that would drain the swamp and also limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government will never see the light of day unless the state governments band together (need at least 34 state legislatures), conduct a convention to propose the amendments and then have the proposed amendments ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.
Presently, there are over 15 different “grassroots” groups (called Article V groups) separately working to have state legislatures send the required 34 applications for a convention to the Congress, which is then required by Article V to call for this convention. For various reasons, none of these efforts in and of themselves have reached the threshold of 34 state applications, and it appears highly problematic that any ever will.
In response to this situation, a new Article V group has been formed called the American Constitution Foundation. Without going into too much detail, ACF’s strategy is to use over 34 existing “aggregated” applications to require Congress to call for a general convention in the very near future to propose constitutional amendments. ACF would provide the overall leadership and coordination to “make it happen,” closely working with all the other Article V groups and the House and Senate leadership in the respective state legislatures. Parties wishing to drain the swamp need to examine the ACF initiative and decide, as I have, to enthusiastically support it.
Paul Gardiner is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel residing in Hoschton, Georgia. He recently served as National Veterans Coalitions Director for the Convention of States Project. He also graduated from the U.S. Army War College with a Masters degree in Strategic Studies and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in Psychology and a BS in Economics.
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