COLUMBUS, Ohio — Speaking before an energetic audience of 3,600 conservative activists on Friday afternoon at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) called for term limits and lobbying restrictions for all elected officials.
Bush was in town for Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream Summit, one of several other 2016 presidential candidates who will address the group during the two day conference, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA).
Bush was generally viewed as a conservative governor during his tenure in the Sunshine State, but he has since struggled to connect with conservatives who are skeptical of his positions on immigration and support for the Common Core educational standards. Nonetheless, his remarks on Friday, mostly centering on fiscal conservative issues, were well-received by the AFP audience.
Bush has been criticized by some political observers for seeming too restrained on the campaign trail, including a performance at the first GOP debate in which he was outshone by some of his competitors, but he gave a forceful speech on Friday, perhaps the most enthusiastic he has been recently.
He was especially passionate when discussing reforms that were needed for our political system, near the end of his remarks. Citing recent scandals like the veterans dying on waiting lists at VA Hospitals and the OPM cybersecurity failure, Bush said we “should demand competency” and condemn these kind of scandals as unacceptable.
“Our government today is just sheerly incompetent,” said Bush. “We should demand better.”
The solution, Bush explained, was to enact several reforms that had been proven to work well at the state level. These included a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution — Bush had bragged earlier in the speech about passing balanced budgets eight years in a row as Florida’s Governor, a requirement of the Florida Constitution — and line item veto power for the President.
Overall, said Bush, the Congressional budget process — “the most confusing, convoluted budgeting plan,” he called it — badly needed major reforms, because the current system made it nearly impossible to accurately determine true deficits. The better approach, according to Bush, was to budget like families do, looking at both revenues and deficits within the same time period.
“We need term limits for all elected officials in this country,” continued Bush, getting the biggest applause of his speech. Florida enacted term limits in 1992, limiting their legislators to eight years: two four-year terms for State Senators, and four two-year terms for State Representatives. The result, said Bush was a “significantly higher quality” legislature, as more young people were elected and served with their passion and energy and good ideas.
Term limits were critical, said Bush, and the next step was to make sure that elected officials served, and then actually went home, advocating for a ban on lobbying immediately after leaving office. “They should go back home and not stay and lobby… go back home and continue to serve in their own communities.”
Next up for Bush, according to a release from his campaign, is a border security roundtable in McAllen, Texas on Monday, and then crossing the country for a series of events in Colorado, Utah, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.