The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a resolution last week calling for a federal constitutional convention on congressional term limits.
House Joint Resolution 0008 was approved Thursday by a vote of 53-34, and now goes to the state Senate where the measure is expected to face a much tougher debate.
Lawmakers from Northeast Tennessee — including Reps. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, and Tim Hicks, R-Gray — voted in favor of the resolution, which must be approved by 34 state legislatures before a convention can be called on a constitutional amendment to limit terms for members of Congress.
Specifically, the resolution is “to make application to the Congress of the United States pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution to call a convention for proposing amendments to set a limit on the number of terms to which a person may be elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives and to set a limit on the number of terms to which a person may be elected as a member of the United States Senate.”
Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits, issued a statement last week praising the vote in the Tennessee House. His nonpartisan organization says a research poll shows 78% of likely voters in Tennessee — including independents, Republicans and Democrats — support term limits on Congress.
“The people of Tennessee are lucky to have public servants who see what is going on in D.C. and are willing to take action to fix it,” Blumel said in a release. “They know that Congress won’t set term limits on itself. Therefore, it is the obligation of the states to do so.”
Hicks said Friday he voted for the constitutional convention resolution after hearing “complaints from people who are not happy with the way things are going in Washington, D.C.” The Republican lawmaker said many believe term limits might help solve many of the problems in Congress.
“They see people serving 20 to 30 years, and they think they may be staying too long,” Hicks said. “These are folks who get elected to fight bureaucrats and then they turn into one.”
Hicks said he has no “ill will” to any current officeholders, but he does support the idea of term limits.
The voters of the 1st Congressional District have elected two of Tennessee’s longest-serving members to Congress. The late U.S. Rep. B. Carrol Reece, R-Johnson City, was elected to 18 two-year terms in Congress when he died in office in 1961.
The late U.S. Rep. James H. Quillen, R-Kingsport, had served 17 terms when he retired in 1996. His consequent consecutive 34 years in office represents the longest uninterrupted tenure of any Tennessean to serve in Congress.