Term Limits for Congress
Are term limits for Congress going to fix the corruption or end-less spending on big business agendas? There are multiple avenues that can be explored with this question and can go into much detail and side streets as possibly can be imagined, but the research that was done came back to three reasons why this would not work with each being worth mentioning. The main idea that was brought up was that term limits on Congress would be “unconstitutional”. As it stands now there is no amendment that states any restriction on the number or the time that a Congress person can be in office excluding the President.
Second most noted reason is that it would remove the good along with the bad politicians and make for an inexperienced Congress. With the possibility of powerful staff members, lobbyists and bureaucracies if there are young or less experienced Politian’s in office. Third most voiced issue would be that of reducing the voter’s choice. This argument will be demonstrated not to be true. The idea that term limits would go against the constitution is not a true fact. Term limits were proposed during the formation of the American democracy by Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
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They proposed this to try and “eliminate the possibility of any tyranny that could come from being in office to long, and considering the fact that they had just won the freedom from Great Britain and King Louis the XVI”. This idea of term limits has been around for some time in the United States and has been addressed as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. There is no evidence that has been found during the research for this essay that said anything about term limits ever being instated in ancient Greece or Rome, but that is not to say that it did not happen even if for a short period. Term limits have been instated in multiple states.
Fifteen have term limits in effect and Florida just passed a term limit law. The six states that had term limits have had them repealed by either the state legislature or the state supreme court. The ones that have been repealed have done so more due to the wording of the amendment rather than due to the fact that it was unlawful. There is nothing in the Constitution that states that term limits would be unlawful. In fact the way that the Constitution was written it gives the people the right to vote such an amendment into the constitution, but there is a major road block in doing so. The only way that n amendment can be passed is if both the house and the senate vote with a majority to have it put on a ballot and then there must be a two thirds approval by the states. State approval should not be much of an issue, but the votes in Congress would be, since most of the congress people are close to if not already career politicians and would not vote in something that would stop the flow of money or kill a career. Second most notable topic that was found was the concern that term limits would “remove the good politicians from office and the bad”. That is a reality, though it is not really an issue.
Turnover would yield to new ideas due to young and uninfluenced politicians coming in to office every few years, which would make such an even playing field that, the good would shine and the bad would leave at a higher rate. The good politicians could go on to “other governmental agencies or to staff positions or even to teaching the next generation of persons going into such a field”. Now, this same option gives lead to the argument that people running for office would now just use the office as a stepping stone to the next office or to the next career, and that is a real possibility.
This could lead to an even more mediocre congress than what is place now, or maybe it could lead to a more productive congress with people trying to be better than the person next to them to get an edge on the opportunities that lie ahead. The argument could go on for days about the advantages and disadvantages. Time has shown in the states with term limits that it can work and prosper, and in a few states it has also failed to change the way the states had been run. The states that do not have term limits have also found that good politicians are corrupted over long terms in office.
Once the person has been in office for multiple terms what once was a great politician is now not as great as the person started out to be. Years of lobbyist, bureaucracies and staff getting perks, money and the person just getting comfortable in the position has led to complacency and dishonesty. Current Congress people want reform to rather than term limits to give the people the choice back. This sounds great, but in reality does not work. The last reform that was proposed was to change the amount that a candidate was able to raise for election.
The amount was “capped at $600,000”. This is a substantial amount of money for a first time candidate to collect for a campaign. The amount is not enough to get a person with no “prior congressional backing to be able to get their name out to the public”. This is where name recognition plays a major roll and where the seniority starts to play into the election. Seniority has a major role in congress in the fact that a person with time in the congress gets to be on committees, gets to associated with certain groups, and gets backing from lobbyists groups.
Current senior politicians have name recognition and are seen or heard on many different types of media. This is a major disadvantage for a candidate, as the incumbent can get on a media source for reasons other than to campaign lending to more name recognition. Would term limits really reduce the voter’s choice or would this open up the options that voters were able to pick from, and would this not give more choice as there would be more persons inclined to run for office? There were many arguments that voters’ choice would and would not be limited.
The main fact that was found is that in states that had term limits that if it was a year in which a state congress person’s term was up that more options were on the ballots. The opposition argued that this lead to unqualified people running for an office and that the rich were more likely to get into office. Well, is that not the issue that the voters face now? “Reelection rates are at an all-time high with the last election giving in at a 98% reelection”. That seems to be reducing the options for the voter more than anything.
People are running against incumbents due to the high failure rate and the fact that the money needed to beat the incumbent must be at six hundred thousand dollar mark(which as stated above is relatively hard to do) and once again the name recognition. With term limits people who want to run for office will be at a more even playing field. In conclusion term limits may not be the complete answer for the problems in congress, but they sure are a piece of the puzzle to put the government back in to the hands of the voters or people of the United States.
Term limits are needed to stop the meritocracy in congress, the massive spending on special interests, and to limit the power of the lobbyists, bureaucracies, and staff of the current political system. This is just a small part of the term limit argument and there needs to be more work done in the states to try and get the right combination put together before we try to enact a movement to get an amendment passed. Greenburg, Dan Term Limits: The Only Way to Clean Up Congress Washington D. C. Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 1994 Print Newton-small, Jay Time Magazine Article New York Feb. 2010 Print Walker, Nelson Lee, Tenure Corrupts. com Web