(NewsNation) — An overwhelming majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle want term limits for members of Congress.
That’s the takeaway from a University of Maryland poll earlier this year that found 83% of voters support amending the constitution to establish term limits — including 86% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats.
The survey also measured which arguments — both for and against the change — voters found persuasive.
“I would say the most significant factor here is this perception that Congress is not responsive to the people — that Congress has become too comfortable, too safe,” said Steven Kull, a political psychologist and director of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland.
Term limits are back in the spotlight after Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze up for the second time in a little over a month Wednesday.
The incident led Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to declare McConnell “not fit for office.”
McConnell, who turned 81 in February, is the longest-serving party leader in Senate history. His seventh term in office is set to end in January 2027.
The oldest member of Congress, 90-year-old California Senator Dianne Feinstein, has also faced calls to resign from members of her party after missing months of work in Washington due to health issues. She’s currently serving her fifth term in the Senate.
Both lawmakers’ visible frailty has reignited a long-standing debate: Should there be a cap on the amount of time legislators can serve?
Such a change would require a constitutional amendment, which needs support from two-thirds of Congress and hasn’t happened since 1992.
Lawmakers tried to impose federal term limits back in 1995, but the proposal failed in the House, coming up 61 votes short. That amendment would have limited members of Congress to 12 years in either chamber.
The current Congress is the third oldest since 1789, and there’s been a renewed push to impose term limits over the past year.
In January, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., introduced a proposal limiting representatives to three terms and senators to two terms.
As part of his negotiations to win the gavel, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reportedly promised to bring a term limits proposal to the House floor for a vote. So far, that hasn’t happened.
NewsNation reached out to Speaker McCarthy’s office and asked whether he intends to follow through on that commitment but did not receive a response before the publication of this article.
Despite the widespread public support, Kull isn’t convinced there are enough votes on Capitol Hill to get an amendment over the finish line.
“I think members of Congress like being members of Congress and they don’t necessarily want to have term limits,” he said. “It’s a very heavy lift to get a constitutional amendment.”
As of June, 112 House members and 21 Senators have signed pledges backing an amendment limiting House reps to three terms and senators to two terms. That’s well below the two-thirds majority needed.
Norman’s proposal would not impose an age limit, which is something nearly 60% of Americans want, according to a 2022 YouGov poll.
Opponents of term limits have argued that they are anti-democratic and prevent policymakers from gaining important experience that makes them better at their jobs.
“Term limits would impose a tremendous brain drain on the institution,” Casey Burgat, director of the Legislative Affairs master’s program at George Washington University, wrote in 2018. “Fewer experienced policymakers in Congress results in increased influence of special interests that are ready and willing to fill the issue-specific information voids.”
Instead, Burgat said elections are the best way to remove “unresponsive, ineffectual” members of Congress.
Feinstein plans to retire at the end of her term and won’t seek reelection in 2024. So far, there’s been no indication McConnell intends to step down.
Dr. Brian Monahan, the congressional physician, said Thursday he cleared McConnell to continue with his schedule.