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senate Bill S. Joint Res. 1

Amending the Constitution to Impose Term Limits On Congress

Argument in favor

A regular rotation of elected representatives is vital for the long-term health of a functioning republic. Legislators that pass federal laws should be willing to live under those laws as a private citizen back home.

Argument opposed

Term limits make Congress less effective and if a member of Congress can get re-elected again and again, then they should be able to keep their seats. If people don't like it, then they should vote differently.

joint resolution Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 3rd, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. Joint Res. 1?

This resolution would propose an amendment to the Constitution to impose term limits on Congress. Representatives would be limited to three terms — six years — and any partial term to fill a vacancy that lasts more than one year would count against the limit. Senators would be limited to two terms — twelve years — and any partial term to fill a vacancy that lasts more than three years would count against the limit. The term limits wouldn’t apply retroactively, so sitting members of Congress would start with a fresh slate after the amendment is enacted.

As a joint resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment, the president’s signature wouldn’t be required for this to be enacted. Rather, at least three-fourths of the states — currently 38 — must ratify the amendment for it to take effect.


U.S. taxpayers; potential candidates for congressional elections; state legislatures; incumbent members of Congress.

Cost of Senate Bill S. Joint Res. 1

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reintroduced this constitutional amendment from the 115th Congress to limit Senators to two six-year terms and Representatives to three two-year terms:

"For too long, members of Congress have abused their power and ignored the will of the American people,” Sen. Cruz said. “Term limits on members of Congress offer a solution to the brokenness we see in Washington, D.C. It is long past time for Congress to hold itself accountable. I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) added that this proposal is overwhelmingly supported by the public:

"The American people support term limits by an overwhelming margin. I believe that as lawmakers, we should follow the example of our founding fathers, Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who refused to consider public service as a career. Our history is replete with examples of leaders who served their country for a time and returned to private life, or who went on to serve in a different way.”

When he proposed this in the 115th Congress, Sen. Cruz said:

"D.C. is broken. The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people. It is well put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions. The time is now for Congress, with the overwhelming support of the American people, to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification. With control of a decisive majority of the states, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, we have a responsibility to answer the voters' call-to-action. We must deliver."

The Brookings Institute's Casey Burgat opposes imposing congressional term limits, arguing that they'd: 1) take power away from voters; 2) severely decrease congressional capacity; 3) limit incentives for gaining policy expertise; 4) automatically kick out effective lawmakers; and 5) do little to minimize corruptive behavior or slow the revolving door.

This constitutional amendment has the support of seven cosponsors in the 116th Congress, all of whom are Republicans. In the previous session, it had the support of eight cosponsors, all of whom were Republicans.

Of Note: The debate over term limits is one of the oldest in U.S. politics — in fact, it even predates America’s Constitution. In the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, members of the state assembly were limited to serving “four years in seven.”

Term limits for members of Congress most recently became a significant issue in 1994 when 22 states had term limits for their congressional delegations. The U.S. Supreme Court then struck down state-imposed term limits that are stricter than what’s found in the Constitution in the case U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton. This issue resurfaced in 2012 when the Senate rejected a non-binding resolution suggesting that the Constitution should be amended to put in place term limits in a 24-75 vote.


Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain)


A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to limiting the number of terms that a Member of Congress may serve.

Official Title

A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to limiting the number of terms that a Member of Congress may serve.

    I think that this is a bad idea to impose term limits. Let an ungerrymandered electorate decide who will represent them! If we fix the gerrymandering problem, term limits won’t be a problem. Also, Many Congress people have done great jobs. We also need congressional leaders who fully understand the workings of our system. Congress is different from the Executive branch. Term limits at the presidential level are important so we don’t accidentally elect someone who aspires to be an authoritarian dictator!