A number of you have written in about the topic of congressional term limits recently.

And I think it’s an important issue because it gets at the heart of power distortion on Capitol Hill. Some of you even brought up ideas on how to limit power longevity in Washington, D.C.

For example, one reader – Jerry Kraemer from Kentucky – wrote to two of his congressmen (one at the state level and one in the House of Representatives) about it. But he was given the political power anthem response from both.

Now, I’m paraphrasing the response he shared – but the summary goes something like “because we’re in power, we know more about how power works, so we should stay in power.”

Another argument against term limits is that they restrict democracy itself. If voters choose to vote for a candidate who keeps running for office, then they’ve voted their choice. And that’s democracy.

But here’s the thing: term limits are not just about experience. Term limits reduce backing from corporate interests and high net worth people – especially where they put their money, and what they want in return. This can be anything from access to legislative favoritism.

And as corrupt as that dynamic sounds – and as much as politicians never admit they are indebted to their largest financial supporters – if you follow where this money goes, you can benefit as an investor…

So, let’s get into it.

How Term Limits Don’t Match Up With Voters’ Preferences

When it comes to term limits, partisanship doesn’t play much of a role.

An incredible 84% of the American population, according to one survey, supports restricting the amount of time a politician can hold office for the House. That figure is 83% for the Senate.

Although there’s been some forward movement on adopting term limits for Congress, we’re a far cry away from having these implemented.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. Mostly because the process requires an amendment to the Constitution. And that in itself is a complex endeavor.

It requires a grueling process of proposal and ratification. The most important part is to undergo a Term Limits Amendment Proposal Convention. This means using “the procedures set forth in Article V” of the Constitution to institute a change.

The convention would trigger automatically if:

  1. Thirty-four state legislatures (or two-thirds of the states) endorsed it. And states don’t need the permission of Congress to propose a constitutional amendment.


  1. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress (the House and the Senate) proposed an amendment to the Constitution.

The state legislatures would then have to apply for a Convention of States in order to finalize the amendment language.

After that, the proposed amendment would need to be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 states) – or by three-fourths of state ratifying conventions – which would need to be set up.

So as you can see, there are many steps to this process, which makes setting term limits a tough thing to accomplish.

But how come there are limits to the Presidential office – and none for Congress?

Why Should Congresspeople Outstay the President?

The Twenty-Second Amendment was ratified in 1951.

It limited the term for elected presidents to two after Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, was elected to four terms in office. (Ironically, it was a Democratic House and Senate that decided two terms were enough.)

But it’s a different story for the Senate and the House.

To date, there’s no limit on how many six-year terms a senator can have. There’s no limit on how many two-year terms a House representative can have, either. Finally, there’s no limit on how long someone in Congress can hold a seat of power (an idea one reader suggested).

The longest-serving Speaker of the House was Sam Rayburn of Texas, serving nearly 17 years. In fact, one of the buildings that contains offices for the House is named after Rayburn.

I’ve been there dozens of times speaking with congresspeople on both sides of the aisle.


Nomi during her visit to the Rayburn House Office Building in March 2022

What’s more, the House member with the longest number of consecutive years of service, at 59 years, was John Dingell, Jr., (D-MI).

Since the President can only serve two terms, it seems logical for members of Congress to have a similar limitation.

Again, it’s not that simple. Setting term limits is complicated. It requires a constitutional amendment.

Even so, you may be wondering, “why isn’t this already a law?” And that’s because the Founding Fathers rejected the idea.

Most members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 believed that longer terms would make congresspeople more effective by virtue of their experience and public commitment.

James Madison, father of the Constitution, noted in his Federalist Papers that longer-term congresspeople would be “thoroughly masters of the public business,” opposed to “falling into the snares that may be laid before them” – a mishap new members might face.

But our Founding Fathers could not have predicted what came next. Fast forward to today, and the landscape looks much different. Most incumbents currently stay in power due to the money and corporations backing them.

Tomorrow, in the second part of this essay, I will delve into why this is the case, recent efforts to impose term limits, and how you, too, can profit from the power incumbents hold…

Stay tuned for more.



Nomi Prins
Editor, Inside Wall Street with Nomi Prins