Government

After almost 40 years in Senate, Grassley still backs term limits

But Iowa senator also sees drawbacks of proposed amendment

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers a question during a town hall April 23 at the Independence Public Library in Independence. The meeting was part of his 99-county tour of the state. Grassley, who first was elected to the Senate in 1980, on Wednesday said the issue of term limits comes up often during his meetings with constituents. “I simply say, as far as a constitutional amendment’s concerned, I have to admit and don’t back off this, that I voted for it.” (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers a question during a town hall April 23 at the Independence Public Library in Independence. The meeting was part of his 99-county tour of the state. Grassley, who first was elected to the Senate in 1980, on Wednesday said the issue of term limits comes up often during his meetings with constituents. “I simply say, as far as a constitutional amendment’s concerned, I have to admit and don’t back off this, that I voted for it.” (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Sen. Chuck Grassley once voted to cap congressional service and could do so again, but the seven-term Republican warns that the outcome might not be what advocates of term limits want.

“I get this question at a lot of my town meetings,” said Grassley, who meets with constituents in all 99 Iowa counties every year. “I simply say, as far as a constitutional amendment’s concerned, I have to admit and don’t back off this, that I voted for it.

“So I’m kind of on record supporting it, and I’ve indicated to my constituents that I would support it again,” he told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.

As the most senior member of the Senate, Grassley serves as president pro tempore. He was asked about term limits in light of a Senate hearing chaired by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, which includes six Republicans with a combined 82 years of service.

Cruz has proposed amending the Constitution to prevent anyone being elected to the House if they’ve served three two-year terms or to the Senate if they’ve served two six-year terms in that chamber.

Grassley explained that he supported term limits when the issue came up in Congress in the 1990s because “I thought it was important that I make clear that a seat in the U.S. Senate for a senator from Iowa does not belong to the senator who holds it. It belongs to the people of Iowa.”

On the other hand, Grassley continued, it takes time for members of Congress to learn how the federal government works, “particularly the strength of the executive branch and the power of lobbyists.”

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Since voting for the constitutional amendment, Grassley said he has learned there are downsides to restricting length of service.

People in states that have term limits for members of their legislatures, for example, have told him it tended to “strengthen the power of lobbyists because the members are new and turning over more often, and you don’t get on top of the issues as if you’ve been around as long as I have,” Grassley said with a chuckle.

“It enhances the power of bureaucrats who have a life in government and don’t have any term limits,” he added.

And, he said, his seniority, which was a factor in becoming chairman of the Finance Committee and, previously, the Judiciary Committee, helps him deliver results for Iowa. He noted his recent opposition to President Donald Trump’s trade policies and current efforts to reduce prescription drug prices.

“And don’t forget that we kind of have term limits anyway because every six years or two years you get a chance to vote out a member of Congress,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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