Ted Cruz, who’s running for a third term, again files bill to limit U.S. senators to two terms

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a press conference with organizers of The Peoples Convoy near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2022. (Eric Lee For The Texas Tribune, Eric Lee For The Texas Tribune)

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz reintroduced a bill last week to limit senators from serving more than two six-year terms, even as he stands by plans to run for his third.

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The bill is a constitutional amendment that would prevent U.S. senators from serving more than 12 years. It would also prevent those in the U.S. House from serving more than three two-year terms. Terms served by members prior to the bill’s enactment would not count toward the proposed term limitations, which means that if the bill were to be passed by this Congress, Cruz would not be term limited until 2036.

“Term limits are critical to fixing what’s wrong with Washington, D.C.,” the Texas Republican said in a statement after introducing the bill last week. “The Founding Fathers envisioned a government of citizen legislators who would serve for a few years and return home, not a government run by a small group of special interests and lifelong, permanently entrenched politicians who prey upon the brokenness of Washington to govern in a manner that is totally unaccountable to the American people.”

He declined to answer questions about why he would seek a third term in office, given his view about the need to limit how long members should serve.

It is highly unlikely that the bill will have any traction in Congress. This is the fourth time Cruz has introduced the legislation, but it has never gotten a vote in either the House or the Senate.

Cruz announced in November that he is seeking a third term in the Senate in 2024.

“I’m running for reelection in the Senate; I’m focused on the battles in the United States Senate,” Cruz told reporters after addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas.

At the same time, Cruz hasn’t ruled out plans to pivot and run for president instead. He previously ran for president in 2016.

Cruz originally announced the bill alongside then-U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, now Florida governor, in 2017 and alongside former U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, in 2019. U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, is now leading the charge to pass the bill in the U.S. House.

This year his co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate included Republican Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Steve Daines of Montana, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Braun of Indiana, Rick Scott of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

There’s an incredibly high threshold to pass a constitutional amendment. They must receive two-thirds of the votes in each chamber before having to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures in the country.

Cruz was elected to his first term in 2012 and was reelected to a second term after a hard-fought race against Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

The average amount of time that those elected to the 118th Congress have served was 8.5 years for those in the House and 11.2 years for those in the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In the Texas Legislature, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, piled on with his own bill that would allow Texas to cap its U.S. senators to serving at most two terms in office. Gutierrez told The Texas Tribune that the “bill seeks to oblige” Cruz.

“This is the same story he does every two years,” Gutierrez said. “It is beyond hypocrisy, if he wants term limits so badly to save us from entrenched politicians, then he needs to go retire now. He’s done his 12 years.”

It’s unclear whether Gutierrez’s proposal has any teeth behind it if passed by the Legislature.

Gutierrez said it may depend on the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case that centers around whether a state judicial branch has the authority to discard federal election regulations implemented by a state legislature. If the Supreme Court sides with North Carolina legislators, it could open a path for state legislators to institute term limits on their congressional leaders.

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