Jim DeMint: Why not tack support for term limits on to no-insider-trading bill?

Monday, the Senate began to debate the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, and the House takes up its version of the legislation later this month. The bill would do exactly what its title implies: It would make insider trading of stocks and securities by members of Congress, their spouses and their staff members expressly illegal.

Now, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor are also fighting to extend the provisions of the bill to the executive branch. It’s annoying that lawmakers ever exempted themselves from insider trading laws in the first place, but at least they’re attempting to right that wrong now.

In the meantime, Sen. Jim DeMint remains focused on one of his own legislative priorities and wants to use the present attention on insider trading to spotlight that priority once more. The Hill reports:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) hopes to force a vote that would “express support” for his constitutional amendment that would implement term limits for federal legislators as an amendment to the Senate’s insider trading bill.

“The only way to permanently reform Washington and discourage corruption is to pass a term limits amendment to the Constitution,” said DeMint in a statement.

The amendment would have little practical effect, other than possibly bringing the issue of term limits back into the national consciousness. House GOP members pushed for the restrictions during the 1994 Republican Revolution, but the movement has gained little traction since a constitutional amendment – requiring two-thirds of both chambers and approval by the states – would be necessary to institute the caps.

“Our founders warned us about creating a class of career politicians who amass personal power instead of fighting for the people they are supposed to represent. Decades of permanent politicians has left us with a $15 trillion debt, and a federal budget and tax code that favors special interests with the highest paid lobbyists,” said DeMint.

Linking the idea of term limits to a bill about insider trading is actually a pretty good fit. Two or four years’ worth of insider information — as compared with her present nearly 25 years in Congress —  might not have enabled Nancy Pelosi, for example, to get in on the ground floor of eight different companies while having access to information that directly affected those companies.

Like a balanced budget amendment, term limits often seem like a conservative pipe dream. On some level, they’re an easy concept to support precisely because they’re unlikely to pass. A politician can support ’em in theory without ever having to face them in reality — but DeMint seems sincere about the idea. If nothing else, his repeated mention of it reminds voters to consider carefully whether they prize their present congressional representative’s experience over a fresh face and new ideas or vice versa. In the end, if voters have created a permanent political class, they have no one to blame but themselves. If the present anti-incumbent sentiment continues, voters might create de facto term limits anyway.

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