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Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips calls for term limits after Sen. Mitch McConnell freezes during news conference

Rep. Dean Phillips calls for term limits
Rep. Dean Phillips calls for term limits 02:00

MINNEAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips on Wednesday called for term limits for members of Congress, following the second time this summer Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze during a news conference.

A reporter during an event in Kentucky asked the Republican leader, who is 81, about his re-election plans in 2026. He began to answer and then trailed off, staring blankly for a few seconds before an aide asked if he had heard the question. He remained unresponsive and that aide then said: "We're going to need a minute." McConnell took more questions later, according to a local news report.

Last month, McConnell had a similar incident in which he stopped speaking mid-sentence while talking with reporters on Capitol Hill.

Phillips, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's Third Congressional District, in a post on "X," formerly Twitter, used the incident to underscore his call for term limits.

"For goodness sake, the family, friends, and staff of Senators Feinstein and McConnell are doing them and our country a tremendous disservice. It's time for term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, and some basic human decency," Phillips wrote.

A spokesperson following the incident said McConnell had felt lightheaded. The attending physician of Congress said Thursday McConnell is "medically clear" to proceed with his duties in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat from California who is 90, was hospitalized after a fall at her home earlier this month and spent several months absent from Washington while dealing with shingles. She is not running for re-election.

A CBS News Poll last year showed broad support for age limits for elected leaders, with 73% responding that there should be a maximum age after which a person can no longer be in elected office.

But that change, or term limits, would take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is not an easy feat. An amendment may be proposed by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote or by a constitutional convention, which requires support from two-thirds of state legislature to call it to order.

None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by the latter, according to the Office of the Federal Registrar.

If Congress successfully passes a proposed amendment, then three-fourths — 38 of 50 — of states need to ratify it.

"It could be multiple steps involving Congress, involving the states. And as we've seen with other constitutional amendments, it's tricky," said Larry Jacobs, a politics professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. "It takes years and they usually fail."

Phillips is not the only lawmaker to support term limits. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, for example, introduced a constitutional amendment to make the change earlier this year.

As for state rules, they vary. In Minnesota, there are no term limits for governor or the legislature. Only 16 states nationwide cap the number of terms state lawmakers can serve, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Democratic and Republican analysts Abou Amara and Amy Koch both said that term limits sound like a good idea, but are probably not the best answer to any voters' concerns about the make-up of Congress.

"When you have a very, very term-limited elected representation, the unelected bureaucracy behind gains more power," Koch, a former majority leader in the Minnesota Senate, said. "That's just a nuance of term limits where they sound really good — and I get it, in the past I've supported term limits, but I've sort of come around to the way of thinking that we need servant leaders who are willing to step up and step down when the time is right."

She suggested adjusting the primary process, like an earlier date in Minnesota, would encourage more people to challenge incumbents and would give voters more of an opportunity to choose new leadership.

Current members of Congress overwhelmingly win re-election.

"I think the idea of term limits sounds interesting, but the ultimate term limit is an election," Amara said.

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