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Donald Trump wants to set term limits for lawmakers. It wouldn't be the first time.

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Donald Trump wants to set term limits for lawmakers. It wouldn't be the first time.

Donald Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail that he would "drain the swamp" in Washington. One way he wants to do that is to set term limits for members of Congress. It's going to be almost impossible for him to get that done, but if it did happen, it wouldn't be the first time. 

Historical term limits

The use of term limits have been around for a while now. In fact, Aristotle argued to place one-term limits on an ancient Athenian legislature called the Boule in the fourth century B.C. 

The first U.S. Congress actually had term limits under the Article of Confederation in 1777, but the concept was later rejected at the Constitutional Convention ten years later. 

Should members of Congress have term limits?

We already have some term limits 

The U.S. President has a two-term limit, but that didn't happen until the 22nd Amendment was passed in 1951, right after Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his fourth term in the Oval Office. 

There are 15 states that have term limits on their state legislators and 36 states have some form of term limits on governors. In Virginia, governors can only serve one term, but in Wyoming, a governor can serve for eight years in a 16-year period.  

Arguments against term limits

Some political scientists argue that term limits weaken Congress by forcing experienced legislators, who know how to work the system, out in favor of inexperienced lawmakers.

And some experts say term limits actually increase the power of lobbyists because they can stick around the Capitol as long as they want and take advantage of inexperienced newcomers. 

Not to mention, the Supreme Court in 1995 ruled that states and Congress can't just make a law to limit terms. 

It would take a Constitutional amendment 

The only way to set term limits for Congress is for Congress itself to pass a Constitutional amendment. 

Constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass. A two-thirds supermajority in Congress has to agree to it and then three-fourths of states have to ratify the amendment. 

Not to mention, it's pretty unlikely a majority of lawmakers would vote to lose their own jobs. 

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