Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is my Senator. On November, 21, 2012, he said that he is considering breaking the Americans For Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which says:

Senator Chambliss’ reasoning?

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”

He has been a Senator for 20 years and if we had term limits, he would not be able to break his pledge because he would no longer be in office.

In fact, candidate qualification of term limits were enacted in eight states in the 1990s, but in 1995 with Inc v. Thornton, the Supreme Court ruled that state imposed term limits are unconstitutional. Their reasoning was that the U.S. Constitution imposed some qualifications on Senators: No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen (Article I, section 3). Because the Constitution put on some candidate qualifications, The Supreme Court reasoned that the States could not put on additional candidate qualifications, such as term limits.
Clarence Thomas, in dissent, countered this line of reasoning.

“It is ironic that the Court bases today’s decision on the right of the people to ‘choose whom they please to govern them.’ Under our Constitution, there is only one State whose people have the right to ‘choose whom they please’ to represent Arkansas in Congress… Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each State of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the States or the people.”

Thomas is correct. There is no Constitutional basis for this split Supreme Court ruling. Georgia has the right under the Tenth Amendment to decide if The U.S. Supreme Court ruling is constitutional or not. If Georgia determines that the ruling is unconstitutional, then they could legislate term limits and refuse to put Saxby Chambliss on the ballot in 2014.

Bert Loftman