Term limit rules targeted by Trump aren't tipping scale on House GOP retirements

Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has an idea he thinks would quell the growing list of House Republicans who say they won't run for another term, but the president's proposal might not get to the root of the GOP retirements.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump urged House GOP leaders to alter conference rules to allow committee chairs (and ranking members if in the minority) to hold their posts for more than six years.

"The Dems have unlimited terms. While that has its own problems, it is a better way to go. Fewer people, in the end, will leave!" he tweeted, just hours before the chamber formally returned from its summer recess.

But Republican members may be leaving Congress largely due to frustrations that come from being in the minority. Of the 12 Republican lawmakers who so far have announced plans to retire after this term, six haven't served in the minority before.

It's much tougher to achieve policy goals in the minority, with influence limited mostly to bipartisan legislation and amendments. And for some lawmakers, working across the aisle can be a liability with voters, depending on the issue. Seven of the recently announced retirements came from races that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as "Solid Republican."

The GOP's self-imposed limit, adopted in 1994, specifies that a Republican House member cannot lead a committee for more than six years unless the member obtains a waiver from the Republican Steering Committee. Time served as chair and ranking member both count toward the six-year limit. Democrats, as Trump noted, have no such rule.


CQ Roll Call interviewed more than a half dozen Republicans about Trump's proposal and only one expressed any openness to getting rid of the term limits. But it was a key Republican, Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney.

"We need to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep the very best people here and I think that's certainly something I would be willing to look at, and I think it is important to make sure that we don't lose people because they're term limited out," the Wyoming Republican said.

The other members were cool to Trump's idea because they feel the term limits allow for advancement in their conference and new ideas to surface in committees.

Rep. Gary Palmer, who is in GOP leadership as chair of its policy committee, said he hadn't seen Trump's tweet but favors keeping term limits for committee leaders because it "encourages other members to work harder and earn that opportunity."


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