Nearly half of Michigan’s congressional delegation has overstayed its term limits

Washington Wednesday: Seven of Michigan’s 15 representatives in Washington have ignored “voluntary” term limits, as laid out in the Michigan Constitution

Article 2, Section 10 of the Michigan Constitution says that Michigan’s congressional delegation should “voluntarily” follow voter-approved term limits. This means three terms in a 12-year span in the U.S. House and two terms in a 24-year span in the U.S. Senate.

The people of Michigan approved non-voluntary term limits when they passed Proposal B of 1992. But a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, struck down state efforts at term-limiting members of Congress, as the U.S. Constitution offers no such limits.

Article 2, section 10 of the Michigan Constitution reads, in part:

The people of Michigan declare that the provisions of this section shall be deemed severable from the remainder of this amendment and that their intention is that federal officials elected from Michigan will continue voluntarily to observe the wishes of the people as stated in this section, in the event any provision of this section is held invalid.

Translation: Even if the courts strike this down, the people of Michigan have spoken, and their representatives in Congress should listen.

But few do. Of Michigan’s 15 representatives in Congress — 13 in the House, two in the Senate — seven have overstayed the term limits approved by Michigan voters. The number might have been higher had former Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, decided to run for reelection last year rather than retire.

If Sen. Debbie Stabenow had heeded the voluntary limit, she would have retired from Congress a decade ago, after a term that ended in 2012. Instead, she’ll have spent 24 years in Congress by the end of her current, fourth term. That’s twice as long as the Michigan voter wanted.

Stabenow’s counterpart, Gary Peters, first won election in 2014, and won reelection in 2020. If Peters runs again in 2026, it will be in violation of the honor system envisioned in 1992.

Here’s a list of others who have overstayed their constitutional welcome, and when they would’ve had to retire to honor voluntary term limits:

Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, before the 2022 election

Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, before the 2020 election

Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, before the 2016 election

Dan Kildee, D-Flint, before the 2018 election

John Moolenaar, R-Caledonia, before the 2020 election

Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, before the 2012 election

Three other Michigan representatives are in their third term now and have a choice to make ahead of the 2024 election. They are Rashida Tlaib, D-Dearborn; Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing; and Haley Stevens, D-Birmingham.

Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township, is in her second House term. Three others are in their first term: John James, R-Farmington Hills; Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit; and Hilary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids.

Is the Michigan Constitution our supreme law, or a mere suggestion box?

Among Michigan’s delegation in Congress, it is the latter, and the suggestion has gone unheeded.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.