With the growing disconnect between the views of the average citizen and our “so-called” representatives in Washington many Americans have come to the conclusion that it is time for our nation to take a serious look at term limits. A recent Fox News poll found that 78% of Americans now favor limiting the tenure of their elected Representatives and Senators in Washington. Unfortunately making such a change is easier said than done. Imposing term limits would require a Constitutional amendment that would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. This is an expensive and time consuming process but one that many firmly believe is necessary if we have any hope of saving our republic. In the 1980’s and early 90’s activists in a number of states sought to circumvent this process by promoting ballet initiatives, amending state constitutions, and passing laws limiting congressional terms. In fact, by 1993 a total of 23 states had approved congressional term limits according to the Congressional Research Service. But alas, in 1995 the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. Term Limits v Thornton that “state imposed congressional tenure violates the Constitution and that term limits can only be set through the Constitutional amendment process.” Back to square one. But if you have any doubts about the need to push for this reform just take a look at the current crop of Congressional leaders who seem positively intoxicated with power. Clearly the time to act is now!
The debate on imposing term limits on members of Congress has been raging in this country for a good many years now. For decades an overwhelming majority of voters have indicated that they support term limits. The only serious opponents of term limits continue to be incumbent politicians and the special interests—particularly labor unions that support them. Proponents of this idea would argue that term limits would drive out career politicians and result in a “citizen” legistature which is much more in line with what our Founding Fathers had in mind in the first place. Public service should not be thought of as a lifelong career but rather as a leave of absence from a productive private-sector career. This approach argues that such a Congress would be much more open to fresh thinking and innovative new ideas. Special interests would have considerably less clout and members of Congress would be more predisposed to vote on principle. What a refreshing idea! In the current system where seniority is of the utmost importance mediocre politicians often thrive. In a term-limited Congress the thought is that those with talent and ideas are more likely to rise to positions of influence. And finally, a Congress made up of “real” people is far more likely to be in favor of lower taxes and smaller government.
Now those who oppose term limits do have a number of powerful arguments on their side. Opponents contend that imposing term limits necessarily reduces voter choice and forces the termination of “good” politicians as well as bad. In addition, term limits would naturally result in a loss of knowledge and experience in the hallowed chambers of Congress. Furthermore, the skeptics point out that term limits would almost certainly increase the power of congressional staffs and other bureaucrats. These are certainly important points to consider when and if the country contemplates any Constitutional amendment for term limits.
But at the end of the day I must come down on the side of those who feel that the time has finally come to impose some form of term limits on our out-of-control Congress. The events of the past two years have crystallized this for me. I have thought about this issue for years and I have an idea for a compromise solution that I believe would largely fix the problem once and for all. My idea would be to propose a Constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on members of the House of Representatives only. How many terms would be allowed in such an amendment would be a subject for debate. I might suggest a maximum of three or perhaps four two-year terms. Meanwhile, my proposal would place no limits on the amount of time that members of the United States Senate could serve. By placing term limits on members of the House of Representatives you would be automatically be creating competition for those highly coveted U.S. Senate seats. You can bet that at least some of those term-limited House members would aspire to serve in the U.S. Senate one day. Such a system would ensure a constant influx of new blood into the House of Representatives while at the same time forcing sitting Senators to stay on their toes and be more responsive to the folks at home. Some would argue vehemently that a Constitutional amendment is not necessary and that the voters are free to impose term limits themselves by simply refusing to vote for any incumbents. This is an interesting notion but history has shown time and again that this simply never materializes. Our nation’s Founders believed strongly in the concept of “citizen legislators”. They decided to leave term limits out of the Constitution because they simply did not foresee that politics would become a career for so many people. I say let us take the bull by the horns and push for a Constitutional amendment for some kind of term limits for members of Congress. While it is by no means a perfect solution to the myriad problems we face in this country in my judgment it is one of the best available to us. Highly recommended!
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A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms a person may serve in a particular elected office. Term limits are found usually in presidential and semi-presidential systems as a method to curb the potential for dictatorships, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". There are different types of term limits. Sometimes, there is an absolute limit on the number of terms a person can serve, while, in other cases, the restrictions are merely on the number of consecutive terms a person can serve.