Northwest supporters of term limits claimed victory in defeat Tuesday after the Senate failed to allow a vote on a constitutional amendment limiting congressional service.
A motion to end a Democratic filibuster and permit a vote fell two votes shy of the necessary 60, effectively killing the chances of term limits in this Congress.
“I’m amazed that Congress is frightened to allow the American people to have their way,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who added that the vote was a “strong statement” for term limits. “By two votes, it missed starting a great national debate.”
Sens. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho, and Slade Gorton, R-Wash., joined Craig in supporting a vote on the amendment.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., voted against ending debate. Murray opposes term limits, saying voters can use elections to change their congressional representation.
The proposed amendment would have limited both representatives and senators to 12 years of service.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and then must be ratified by at least 38 states.
The House voted, 227-204, in favor of the amendment last March - more than 60 votes short of a two-thirds majority. Term limitation is the only plank in the Republicans’ “Contract with America” to fail in the House.
Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., said the House should vote again on term limits before the November elections.
The amendment’s failure “very definitely gives Republicans a campaign issue,” said Nethercutt, who repeatedly has said he will serve no more than six years in the House.
In the Senate on Tuesday, all 53 Republican senators and five Democrats voted to end debate.
Several Democrats said they would support limits if they apply to everyone - including members of Congress who already have served 12 years. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said it is “fundamental hypocrisy” for lawmakers to exempt themselves.