Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday called for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices and members of Congress, part of a sweeping series of electoral and government reforms the Texas Democrat pledged to pursue if 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.
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The former congressman is expected to highlight his plan during a NowThis town hall in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.
O’Rourke has long emphasized electoral reform issues, both while in Congress and in his presidential campaign. He 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. The plan he unveiled on Wednesday added heft to that rhetoric, as presidential contenders continue to release policy proposals early in the 2020 campaign.
O’Rourke, co-chairman of the Term limits Caucus while in Congress, said he would support a constitutional amendment limiting House members to six terms and senators to two terms, while creating 18-year terms for the Supreme Court — after which justices would be allowed to serve on federal courts of appeals.
His campaign said such term limits would help “clear the way for new leaders to step up” and serve.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke said a series of proposals surrounding 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.”
The proposals come as O’Rourke seeks to regain momentum in the Democratic primary. He is standing at 4 percent in the latest Morning Consult poll.
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 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.
“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.”