Constitutionality of Term Limits Debated in New Book

The practicality and constitutionality of term limits are vigorously debated in a new book from the Cato Institute.The Politics and Law of Term Limits, edited by Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, and Roger Pilon, director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies, is the definitive guide to the hottest political issue in recent years. Voters in 16 states have already limited the terms of their members of Congress. Eight more states have the question on the ballot this November. The terms of state legislators and other officials have been limited in 16 states and hundreds of counties and cities, including New York and Los Angeles. In late November the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in U.S.Term Limits v. Thornton, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Arkansas term-limit initiative.

Contributors to The Politics and Law of Term Limits include top names from the worlds of constitutional law, political science, and grassroots organizing: presidential adviser Lloyd N. Cutler; U.S. Term Limits executive director Paul Jacob; League of Women Voters president Becky Cain; attorney John Kester, who will argue the constitutionality of term limits before the Supreme Court this fall; constitutional law authority Ronald D. Rotunda; law professor Daniel H. Lowenstein; and Thomas E. Mann, director of the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Syndicated columnist George Will provides an introduction, as do Crane and Pilon. "It is no overstatement to say," write Crane and Pilon, "that the term-limits movement¦a national, grassroots effort to limit the terms of elected officials at all levels of government¦is emerging as one of the most important developments in this nation in a very long time.... Term limits speaks in fundamental ways to the question of how we will govern ourselves. Although the political establishment has often been slow, for understandable reasons, to acknowledge the movement, it can be ignored no longer."

"Term limits," adds Will, "have come to remedy what ails government."

Arguing for the political wisdom of term limits are Jacob and Petracca, who say that term limits would end the careerism that undermines representative government. They are opposed by Cain and Mann, who counter that the real problems cited by advocates of term limits would not be solved by such limits. Kester and Rotunda set forth their cases for the constitutionality of term limits; they point out that the Constitution does not prohibit the states from limiting terms and in fact empowers the states to regulate the "time, place, and manner" of elections. Cutler and Lowenstein rebut that argument by noting that since the Constitution specifies qualifications for members of Congress, the states cannot enact more onerous standards.

The book received enthusiastic prepublication praise. Constitutional authority Floyd Abrams said that "as the desirability and constitutionality of term limits become increasing central, the need for a volume that sets forth both sides¦all sides¦of the debate becomes all the more pressing.The Politics and Law of Term Limits does just that. Here, in one place, are powerful arguments pro and con rooted in history, philosophy, politics, and law. The book is an indispensable collection of diverse views on one of the most intellectually challenging and pragmatically significant issues of our time."

Governor William F. Weld of Massachusetts said, "This is a mind-expanding treatment of a fascinating public policy issue. You feel as though you're watching a fifteen-round fight where both combatants are knocked to the canvas, but somebody's eventually going to win."

Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis called it the "best discussion of an issue whose time has clearly come."