While watching the various Senate Confirmation Hearings I found one short phrase constantly repeating itself in my head.
Term Limits… Term Limits… Term Limits…
John Conyers, House Member from Michigan, is the longest serving current Congressman. He has held his position for…52 years. The record holder, John Dingell, retired late last year with 59 years of “service”. Fourteen current members of Congress have held their posts for 36 years or longer. The average tenure at the start of the 114th Congress was 8.8 years for House Members and 9.7 years for the Senate – but these numbers are low as they do not count years of service by members of the Senate when they were members in the House and vice versa. And 53 of our 100 Senators were House Members before they became Senators. These numbers also do not capture how many Congressmen are effectively career politicians – having risen to their Congressional Membership through positions as political aides, lobbyists or by holding other political office.
You get the point.
One of the things I found refreshing about the Trump Administration was its ban on lobbyists. The thing I like even more is the amount of Cabinet and Administration members who are coming from outside of politics (See: The Birth of an Administration). Our best and brightest do not work in Washington. They work in the private sector.
The Left has engaged in a great deal of hand-wringing over the level of wealth these individuals have accumulated through their successes in the private sector. I simply do not understand this.
I want people who have already made their money – not people who are coming to make money.
And make no mistake, most of our Congressmen come to Washington in order to make money.
A Rasmussen Study found that 74% of registered voters favor term limits while just 13% oppose them. A logical question in response to these numbers is why don’t we have term limits already? The answer is two-fold. First and foremost, Congressional Members don’t want term limits. Secondly, it is a hard thing to do. In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled – in a poorly reasoned 5-4 decision – that Congress cannot create a term limits law – a Constitutional Amendment is required. Article V of the Constitution states the following:
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”
This means term limits can only occur through a two-thirds supermajority vote from both houses of Congress followed by a ratification from three-fourths of all states or through a Convention of States – an exciting prospect that by-passes Congress entirely (See: The Fifth Article for more detail on a Convention of States).
President-Elect Trump has announced his support for Term Limits. On January 3, 2017, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Ron DeSantis proposed an Amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress. The amendment would limit U.S. Senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms.
Voters desire for real change in Washington might just make this the time to really try for true reform through an actual passage of a Congressional Amendment on Term Limits.
Away from the simple fact that voters overwhelmingly do not trust Congress there are many reasons to push for Term Limits:
Reduces Corruption – The number one reason for Term Limits. Limit the term served and you limit the power associated with the seat. Power Corrupts.
Reduces the growth of Career Politicians – Congressional Members can focus on the job at hand and less on keeping that job.
Reduces the influence of Special Interests – by limiting time served you limit the monetary impact each member of Congress can garner. Special Interests are paying for Power. Term Limits curtail Power.
Reduces the impact of Lobbyists – virtually every Lobbying Group opposes term limits – this speaks for itself.
Reduces the wealth gap for re-election between potential candidates – allows for a greater and better choice of candidates.
Reduces the importance and influence of Seniority – outsized power wielded by more senior members of Congress is taken away.
Attracts people from the Private Sector – they can actually make a difference in Washington – not be stonewalled or subsumed by it.
Reduces Partisan Politics – toeing a party line holds less importance.
Reduces Political Favoritism – committee appointments (where laws are written and topics tackled) are highly politicized, powerful positions that are often assigned based on political favors and quid pro quo agreements.
Increases the Caliber and Quality of Congress – by allowing newer Congressmen the opportunity to actually make a difference, there will be a natural draw for qualified people who want to make an impact – to actually serve our country.
Encourages new ideas and approaches – the ongoing introduction of “fresh blood” will naturally promote newer and better approaches to problems – creativity will be stimulated.
I’m sure I could go on – I’m equally sure many of you have additional reasons of your own. If, on the other hand, you still have doubts surrounding the idea of Term Limits I invite you to turn on C-Span and watch some Congressional Hearings…
One final note. In reality, a far better approach would be to repeal the 17th Amendment and return control of the Senate to the States – but that approach, while superior, faces much longer odds of success. For a more complete discussion of this topic please see my creatively titled article Repeal the 17th Amendment.
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