Grass-Roots Group Pushes The Limits
Term Caps For Congress Eyed
HARRISONBURG — Until about three weeks ago, Fulks Run resident Bill Branner thought the only way the United States could work itself out of all of its issues were to either “give up and let the socialists win” or commence armed conflict.
And then he connected with Term Limits for U.S. Congress Inc. and found a more “workable” solution, he said.
“There was some absolute genius that went into this,” said Branner, 70. “It’s just very hard to argue with.”
At the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Monday — Memorial Day — the national grass-roots organization will launch a petition-signing campaign that calls for a 12-year term limit for those serving in Congress.
Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and U.S. senators serve six years, as spelled by the U.S. Constitution. There are no current term limits for either seat.
The petitions — one for every state — are designed to eventually go to each state’s legislature, encouraging lawmakers to call for an Article V convention to amend the Constitution to impose the limit.
Two-thirds of the states, or 34, must agree to such a convention, where state-picked delegates — and not federal lawmakers — would then vote on a constitutional amendment.
Amendments require either a two-thirds majority of the Senate and House or a state-requested convention.
“The Founding Fathers never intended for Congress to be a career,” said Dale Fulk, 52, a Rockingham County resident who leads the Virginia chapter of Term Limits for U.S. Congress. “The day you’re elected, you start thinking about being re-elected. The lobbyists know this. The large corporations know this. … It’s all about money.”
Fulk also serves as national chairman of the group’s board of advisers.
“I’m risking everything I’ve ever worked for because I feel this is that important,” said Fulk, who runs GrizzlyStone manufacturing just north of Harrisonburg.
No Political Ties
The national group, which incorporated on April 1, is now looking for volunteers to help circulate petitions and lead counties.
Branner is the leader for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Each state organization will set different goals before taking petitions to lawmakers. In Virginia, Branner estimates that 85,000 signatures might be considered enough before seeking General Assembly action.
He’s hopeful that will occur soon, but no deadline has been set.
The constitutional amendment would call for lawmakers already in office for more than 12 years to finish their term and then retire. Branner said elections aren’t effective in forcing retirements because voters, despite an all-time low 9 percent approval rating for Congress in November, often decide along party lines, name recognition and media exposure.
“It’s a nice theory,” he said, “but it doesn’t work that way.”
The group is not tied to a political party and views the current aura of Washington, D.C., as one that leads to temptation for lawmakers, who give in the longer they stay.
That makes the rest of the nation “puppets,” Fulk said.
“What we’re doing really is going beyond just term limits,” he said. “The biggest thing is to invigorate the people, wake up the sleeping giant of the people [who feel], ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’”
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