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Reaching the Limit on Term Limits

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Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor said he favors term limits for Congressional leaders. But the focus now is on term limits for chairmen, not elected leadership posts.

Incoming Rules Chairman David Dreier said that, in hindsight, Gingrich’s limit might have been unconstitutional. 

“Since that time there are some that argue it is a constitutional issue by virtue of the fact the Speaker is a constitutional officer,” the California Republican said. “You don’t have to be a Member of this body to be Speaker of the House.”

Rep. Greg Walden, who heads the GOP transition team, said the idea had been discussed, but he agreed the constitutional concern was one of the reasons that the change would not be made.

“Our leadership stands for office every cycle. That open forum is going to continue,” the Oregon lawmaker said.

But not all Members were willing to rule out the potential change.

Presumptive Education and Labor Chairman John Kline, a big supporter of term limits for committee chairmen and a member of the Republican Steering Committee, said he hasn’t formed an opinion yet. “It’s an interesting thing to think about,” the Minnesota lawmaker said.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), founder of the Tea Party Caucus, said she supports term limits, particularly for members of the Steering Committee.

“Turnover is a healthy thing,” Bachmann said. She has proposed that Steering Committee members be limited to six years on the panel.

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), incoming head of the Republican Study Committee, said that he hadn’t given a lot of thought to leadership term limits but that “in general, it makes sense.”

One Member suggested that to the extent anyone is talking about limits for elected leaders, it’s less a serious proposal and more a concept floated as a nod to the party’s conservative base.

“There’s a lot of posturing to win the love,” the Member said.

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