Even though he's beginning his 13th year in Congress, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, says its members should be limited to serving no more than 12 years.
He even joined 74 other House members Tuesday to introduce constitutional amendments to either limit House members to six two-year terms, or three four-year terms. Hansen says the political climate is right for one of them to finally pass."And if one of them ever passes, I'm out of here. But until term limits apply to all 50 states, I may stay," Hansen said. Because committee assignments, chairmanships and even office space are doled out largely according to seniority, he says Utah would be hurt by losing his seniority.
Hansen was attacked by Democrat Ron Holt in their race last year for seeking a seventh term - which ties him for the most ever achieved by a Utahn - even though he said he favored limiting terms to 12 years and long served as an officer of the Coalition on Limiting Terms.
Also, while Hansen maintains he never promised to limit himself to only six terms, he was quoted in the press in previous years stating otherwise - which Hansen said resulted from misunderstandings by reporters.
But Hansen said limiting terms is an idea whose time may have come because of public dissatisfaction with Congress and government.
"Fourteen states put term limits on the ballot last year, and it passed in all of them," he said. Some groups, however, are challenging the constitutionality of those votes.
"I would wager that if it were put on the ballot in Utah, it would pass there as well," Hansen said. "In politics, timing is everything. And the time for this may be now."
Agreeing with Hansen is the amendments' main sponsor, Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla. "The polls show that 70 percent to 80 percent of the American people support term limits. . . . We can no longer allow the entrenched congressional power structure and the special interest groups to deny the people's will."
Hansen said he would prefer allowing four-year terms for House members because two-year terms are so short that members are campaigning almost continually.
To become law, the proposed constitutional amendments must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and then be ratified by two-thirds of the states.