Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday called for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress and limiting the service of Supreme Court justices to a single 18-year term, part of a sweeping series of electoral and government reforms the Texas Democrat pledged to pursue if he is elected president.
In addition to term limits, O’Rourke is pressing for laws to reduce the influence of corporate money in politics and to expand voter turnout, including making Election Day a national holiday. He is also proposing to make low-dollar campaign contributions tax deductible and to provide a match for contributions up to $500.
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“We’re facing some of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes, and we can’t solve them with half-measures or only half our people — it’s going to take all of us,” O’Rourke said in a prepared statement. “The only way to make progress is if every single American is empowered to vote — and those who have historically been drawn out of our democracy are able to make their voices heard so that this country can live up to its full promise and potential.”
The former congressman is expected to highlight his plan during a NowThis town hall in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.
What would the plan do?
O’Rourke has said for months that, if elected, he would sign a new voting rights act, work to end gerrymandering, and institute nationwide, automatic same-day voter registration.
O’Rourke, who was co-chairman of the Term Limits Caucus while he was a member of Congress, said he would support a constitutional amendment limiting House members to six terms and senators to two terms, while creating a single18-year term for the Supreme Court — after which justices would be allowed to serve on federal courts of appeals.
Like many Democrats, O’Rourke doesn’t accept campaign contributions from corporate PACs. He said Wednesday that he would call for legislation banning PAC contributions to campaigns, forcing PACs to disclose donations of any amount and limiting contributions to issue PACs, inaugural committees and post-retirement foundations.
He called for a ban on federal lobbying by anyone who has held federal elected office and a prohibition of senior staff from federal lobbying for as much as six years.
O’Rourke also proposed making low-dollar campaign contributions tax-deductible and providing a match for contributions up to $500. He said he would also work with Congress to provide federal funding to states to improve cybersecurity measures, while requiring online platforms to disclose sponsors of political ads on their sites.
Who would it help?
O’Rourke’s campaign said term limits would help “clear the way for new leaders to step up” and serve. And the candidate said a series of proposals on voter registration and ballot access could help register more than 50 million voters and ensure that 35 million new voters cast ballots in 2024.
Criticizing voter ID laws for reducing turnout, especially among people of color, O’Rourke said he would press Congress to pass legislation allowing people without identification to vote after signing a sworn statement of identity. He called for an expansion of early voting, vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration, and he urged legislation limiting states’ ability to purge voter files.
In addition, O’Rourke’s campaign said he would introduce legislation amending the Voting Rights Act “to make clear that even seemingly race-neutral election regulations are unlawful when they result in disproportionate impact on racial minorities.” The campaign said he would direct Department of Justice resources “towards robust, aggressive protection of voting rights, including cracking down on draconian voter identification laws and preventing politically motivated state officials from purging voter rolls.”
What have other Democrats proposed?
Several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed openness to term limits for Supreme Court justices and have called for legislation restricting big money in politics. O’Rourke’s plan includes many overlaps with House Resolution 1, introduced by House Democrats this year to address voter access and political spending.
Like O’Rourke’s, that bill also calls for expanding voter registration and voter access and includes federal matching of small contributions.
Who opposes it?
The proposal is likely to face stiff resistance from Republicans in Congress. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, speaking about House Resolution 1 earlier this year, called it a “sprawling power grab … to rewrite the rules to favor the Democrats and their friends.”