Should We Have Term Limits In Congress (Research Paper)
Government officials are chosen through elections by the people. The President of the United States has a two term limit, while Congress has limitless terms. Serving a two year term, the House of Representatives are considered for re-election. There has yet to be a limit as to how many terms they serve. In 1995, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that individual states do not have the authority to set term limits for their U. S. Representatives or Senators. (What Are Term Limits In The U. S. Government-Michele Meleen, n.d.) The U. S. Government uses term limits for different positions to ensure the government remains a democracy.
One way to gauge what the American people want or think about politics is by polling. Americans want to be heard and the polls give them that opportunity. By conducting polls, the politicians can see where the people stand on issues such as term limits, for example. Are the people for it or against it? According to U.S.TermLimits.com, eight in ten voters, approve of placing term limits on members of Congress. (“Term Limits Polling Results”, n.d.)
Term limits has been a topic for debate for hundreds of years. In the 20th century, Congressional careers have lengthened, as opposssed to the 18th and early 19th century when congressmen served Congress on a part-time basis for a short number of years. (Newcomers? Congress Is Still All About Longtimers-And One Party Has More Of Them-V. Rekklaitis, Market Watch, and R. Mariner, 1/29/19) Former Representative John Dingell from Michigan spent over 59 years in the U. S. House of Representatives. (Longest Serving Members Of Congress-Hanna Lang, 10/17/19) Representative Dingell’s long stretch kept his seat from any type of change, making a lifetime ban after consecutive terms necessary to allow new voices in Congress. Those who are in favor of term limits, would put more focus on policy and important issues instead of re-election campaigns.
By enforcing term limits would force aging politicians to retire, fresh and new perspective members could be brought to Congress. This would encourage newer politicians to have the chance to be heard. Congressional term limits would help build a government to be proud of by replacing career politicians that often halt progress in the name of self-interest. (Opinion: Abolish Career Politicians, Pass Congressional Term Limits-Claire Sullivan, 11/17/20) Politicians should serve the people and not take on their personal ambitions to fatten their pockets. With lobbyists and personal interest groups, it’s easy to get caught up in corrupt behavior. Proponents of term limits argue that restricting the service of lawmakers prevents politicians from assembling too much power in Washington and becoming too alienated from their constituents. (The Debate Over Term Limits For Congress-Tom Murse, 2/18/20) With increased voter participation, term limits will be able to be enforced.
A majority of career politicians enter The House of Representatives as middle class citizens and leave their seat as millionaires. The more money they get for favors, the more influence they acquire. This makes it difficult for younger politicians to break through with new ideas and/or plans. According to Philip Blumel, President of U. S. Term Limits, “When talking about democracy, one must be talking about elections, and to have a well functioning democracy and a well functioning election, which means one needs access to running for office. Having access to being able to vote for a meaningful candidates in races that are meaningful races. A rotation in office is needed to build into the system of American democracy.” (U. S. Term Limits, Podcast episode 128. Is American Democracy Sick?-Philip Blumel, 2/15/21) Impossing a lifetime ban on long-timers would make for a less corrupt Congress. Senator Ted Cruz stated that “Every year, Congress spends billions of dollars on giveaways for the well connected. Washington insiders get taxpayer money and members of Congress get re-elected, all while the system fails the American people. It is no wonder that the vast majority of Americans from every political stripe-Republicans, Democrats, and Independents- overwhelmingly support congressional term limits.” (www.Cruz.senate.gov- Senator Ted Cruz, 1/25/21) With so many who support term limits, there are still those who oppose change. The main obstacle would be that politicians would have to willingly check their own power.
Our Representatives live so differently than the people that they are meant to serve and represent.(Opinion: Abolish Career Politicians, Pass Congressional Term Limits-Claire Sullivan, 11/17/20) Those that argue against term limits state that they already have them in place. They are called elections. Term limits would force good politicians to retire from Congress if a term limit law was enforced. Term limits would take away power from voters if passed. A fundamental principle of the U. S. governing system is that it is each state and district who gets to choose who the representative happens to be in Washington. When voter choices are restricted at the ballot box by barring a candidate from being on the ballot, then it could be an action that goes against what the majority wants. (17 Key Pros And Cons Of Term Limits For Congress-Natalie Regoli, 5/11/19) Another concern is that without term limits is that new politicians would not have the urgency to develop expertise on specific issues since that knowledge will not be useful within a few years. Then there is the “turnover vs. experience” debate. David Hawkins, editor in chief of The Fulcrum states “I wish that there was less turn over. There is not nearly enough institutional memory in Congress anymore. There are not enough members willing to stay long enough to learn how to do the hard work of building relationships and legislating.” Someone in their 80’s brings experiences to the table, to the debate, that no one can bring, Hawkins goes on to say. (Time For RepublicansTo Move On From Term Limits-Nathan L. Gonzalez, 2/10/21)
In ancient Athens, the world’s first democracy, placed a two-year lifetime limit on citizens who served in the Council of 500. Athenians believed this term limit promoted widespread public service and prevented tyranny. (www.crf-usa.org, n.d.) This concept has been around for centuries. Even when Our Founding Fathers considered term limits, but ultimately rejected the idea. It wasn’t until FDR’s unprecedented four terms that lawmakers reconsidered implementing term limits. (How FDR’s Presidency Inspired Term Limits-Peter Feuerherd, 4/12/18) Now fast forward to the 20th century. In 1995, U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court ruled against term limits. Their ruling was as follows: states cannot impose qualifications for a prospective member of Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. The decision invalidated Congressional term limits provision of 23 states. (www.ballotpedia.org-n.d.) In the Term Limits Convention of 2021, 34 states can bypass Congress to propose a Congressional Term Limits amendment. Four states, Florida, Alabama, Missouri and West Virginia have passed U.S. Term Limits applications specific to the single subject of congressional term limits. Fifteen states have passed congressional term limits specific language as part of a multi-subject application. U.S. Term Limits is fighting to pass a single subject congressional term limits application in 34 states. (www.Termlimits.com- n.d.) As term limits cross each hurdle, they are closer to passing the necessary resolutions.
Solutions to bring term limits into Congress into national law are in the works. A constitutional amendment would be required, with two-thirds support in Washington and in the states. This would mean that two-thirds of the members in Congress would have to vote to limit their current power. According to Senator Toomey, “congressional term limits would infuse Congress with real world experience, perspectives, and sensibilities. As Benjamin Franklin put it “in free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their supporters.”” (www.Cruz.senate.gov -1/25/21) In a time where money talks, this is a difficult task. Career politicians sitting in Congress for most of their political careers may not be so willing to give up the perks, popularity, and most of all money to allow newcomers to take over their seat. Change is imminent and it is coming.
Meleen, Michelle. “What Are Term Limits In The U.S. Government” n.d. www.termlimits.com “Term Limits Polling Results” n.d.
Rekklaitis, V., Market Watch, and Mariner, R. “Newcomers?Congress Is Still All About Longtimers-And One Party Has More Of Them” 1/29/19
Lang, Hanna. “Longest Serving Members Of Congress” 10/17/19
Sullivan, Claire. “Opinion: Abolish Career Politicians, Pass Congressional Term Limits” 11/17/20
Murse, Tom. “The Debate Over Term Limits For Congress” 2/18/20
Blumel, Philip. “Is America Democracy Sick?” Podcast episode 128 2/15/21
Senator Cruz, Ted. www.Cruz-senate.gov 1/25/21
Regoli, Natalie. “17 aprons And Cons Of Term Limits For Congress” 5/11/19
Gonzalez, Nathan. “Time For Republicans To Move On From Term Limits” 2/10/21 www.crf-usa.org n.d.
Feuerherd, Peter. “How FDR’s Presidency Inspired Term Limits” 4/12/18 www.ballotpedia.org n.d.