Tennessee State Rep. Chris Todd Talks About the Probability of His Bill Passing Calling for Term Limits in the U.S. Congress
Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Representative (R), Chris Todd of Jackson, to the studio to talk about a bill he is currently sponsoring that would instill term limits to the U.S. Congress via the Constitution’s Article Five Convention.
Leahy: We’re talking in studio with our good friend, State Representative Chris Todd. Chris, we’re talking about where we’ve taken a bill to the point where you’re on the floor of the House, and the bill that you use sponsored is about to be voted on. Obviously, an important day for you. What happens when you had one bill just recently.
Todd: This Monday night, a number one on the docket. And a couple of weeks ago, I actually rolled this bill for two weeks. I was the first on the docket.
Leahy: When you say rolled this bill, tell us what you mean.
Todd: I requested to re-calendar it a couple of weeks later.
Leahy: There you go.
Todd: So I felt like I might not have the votes on the floor. And so I wanted to work at some more. And I had several folks helping me because this was the one that called for term limits on Congress. It had actually requested Congress to set a time in a place for an Article Five Convention of the states to discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution involving term limits only.
Leahy: Specifically limited to term limits.
Leahy: Now, of course, everybody, a lot of people support term limits, but not everybody is a big fan of the Article Five Convention, correct. It’s in the Constitution. It’s never been used, but it’s right there in the Constitution.
Todd: Yes. James Madison wrote it in knowing that there would be a day when Congress would not respond to the people and the state should have a mechanism for amending the Constitution. So that’s all this did. It was a resolution so it wasn’t passing a law or anything.
Leahy: So you’re number one up.
Todd: Monday night.
Leahy: So everybody’s sitting in their seat?
Todd: Well partially. There’s a lot of milling around it.
Leahy: They’re on the floor either milling around?
Todd: Yes, like the ones that like myself that have a bill up we’re still going around and getting support. We’re talking to folks about. Hey, are you still good with me? Do you know of anything I need to do or whatever? You’re still working the bills as much as you can.
Leahy: There are 99 members of the House of Representatives. You need 50 votes to get it passed in the House.
Todd: Yes. So I spent 30 minutes in the well. That’s at the podium.
Leahy: When you say in the well, describe the Chamber because there’s, like every 99 seats out in the Chamber. But where is the well and what are you supposed to do there?
Todd: So it’s a big room. You have a gallery on each side, which is a balcony area where visitors and staff can sit and watch and observe. The Speaker is at the head of the room up on a podium. And the well, the podium where the members would speak is down on the floor in front of that. So you’re called upon, there’s a motion made a second to hear your bill, and then you’re able to describe it. And you have the certain legal language you have to say to start with to get it in the proper form. And then you can talk about your bill and actually tell what it does, and then you renew your motion and you wait for questions.
Leahy: Ah ha!
Todd: Sometimes there are questions and sometimes there are not.
Leahy: So tell us about this. So you go and you talk about your bill, what happened?
Todd: So when the Speaker then says, are there any discussions on the bill and he will call on individual members to stand and speak and they address the chair. Mr. Speaker, I’d like to know about this particular bill. I’ve got a comment or a question about the bill. And then when they’re finished, he will call on me again as the sponsor of the bill to respond to that.
You don’t have to respond. You can just say I renew my motion or you can have an explanation of why that comment is accurate or inaccurate. And then it goes to someone else. As long as people stand up and want to speak or comment or question your bill that goes on up to a certain point.
Leahy: I hear you had a couple of lively questions.
Todd: I had several lively questions and several just lively comments.
Leahy: And even from friends.
Todd: Oh, it was absolutely there were friends.
Leahy: That disagree with you on this bill.
Todd: Staunch conservatives that are a couple of those and Democrats as well that spoke against it that gave their opinion about it. And then I would try to refute their comments and show how, in the historical record, they were inaccurate. I pulled up quotes of my founders and all kinds of things that I had at my disposal there.
Leahy: So they don’t say like you are an absolute idiot for proposing this bill. They say, my good friend, there is an error on this.
Leahy: And then when you respond, you don’t say you are absolutely a crazy person, right?
Leahy: You say my good friend.
Leahy: Even though you may be, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but if it were me, I would say my good friend. But I might be thinking something different.
Todd: It’s difficult. You have to have a lot of control because sometimes things get a little heated, but we still have to practice decorum. We still have to practice respect. And that is critical to things on the House floor. And so I spent 30 minutes doing that back and forth, back and forth. And then one member who was actually on the other side of the aisle stood up and called for the previous questions.
Leahy: That means they’re going to vote on it.
Todd: That is a motion that can be voted on to stop debate and vote on it.
Leahy: Stop debate.
Todd: If there’s no objection to previous question, then we go to vote on it.
Leahy: So what happened?
Todd: No one opposed it because everybody was tired of listening to this.
Leahy: Okay. So then what happens?
Todd: They call for a vote.
Leahy: Who calls for a vote?
Todd: The Speaker calls for the vote.
Leahy: Cameron Sexton. So he calls for the vote. What happens then?
Todd: Then the board starts lighting up. There’s a board on each side of the room of the chamber.
Leahy: So do you go back to your seat and press a button?
Todd: I walk back to my seat. Now, usually, our clerk will place your vote for you. If you’re presenting a bill, he knows you’re for the bill so that before you even get back to your seat. Because none of the seats are quite a ways off if you are sitting in the back of the room.
Leahy: Are there, red buttons or green buttons? What buttons do you Press?
Todd: So the green button would be an aye. A red button would be a no. A blue button is present, not voting. It’s like a roll call vote. And it says I’m here but I’m not voting on this. It’s kind of a no with a hug is what some people would call it.
Leahy: So how long does this roll call take place?
Todd: Literally seconds.
Todd: Maybe 10 or 15 seconds.
Leahy: Okay, so there you are and you’re thinking, is this thing gonna pass? Did you kind of know what the final vote would be?
Todd: I knew what our prediction was.
Leahy: What was your prediction?
Todd: We had commitments in the mid 50?
Leahy: And what was the final vote?
Todd: And we had five members that were supportive. We felt like we’re supported that were out that were absent. So it ended up 53 to 34.
Leahy: So it passed?
Todd: Yes, it passed.
Leahy: Now what happens?
Todd: Then the Senate has to pass the same thing.
Leahy: Did you messenger it to the Senate?
Todd: Well, that particular one I think it will go to them as a message and then they can accept that and go through their process. They’ve already had something running on that. But I’m not sure exactly how far it’s gone.
Leahy: So the odds that this becomes a law?
Todd: It’s a resolution that would be sent to Congress.
Leahy: All they have to do is they have to sign it.
Leahy: What are the odds that Senate?
Todd: I think it’s decent. It depends on what the committee gets to.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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