Time to revisit term limits

Republicans seized control of Congress in the 1994 mid-term elections by promising, among other things, to turn term limits into the law of the land.

Of course, as soon as they won control they scrapped the term limits idea, saying the concept was “unworkable” and some even suggested it could be “unconstitutional.”

Both excuses were crocks. States have term limited governors and other elected offices for years. A President is limited to two terms.

Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers never intended service in Congress to be a career. They envisioned elected office as public service. But many members of both the House and Senate have served for 20 years or more. Some campaigned on promises to serve a limited number of terms in office. Most forgot those promises as soon as they started to enjoy the many perks of service in Congress.

It’s time, I think to impose consider imposing a limit on the number of terms that anyone can serve in the House or Senate.

Lets limit a House member to five terms: 10 years and Senators to two terms: 12 years. If someone serves at least two terms (4 years in the House), he or she cannot serve more than one term in the Senate if they choose election to the “other chamber.”

And, while we’re at it, let’s scrap the welfare program called the Congressional Retirement Program. Service in Congress is — at best — a part-time job and most part-time jobs don’t come with benefits. Let members of Congress apply for health care individually just like other part-time workers. Scrap the free prescriptions from the Congressional medical office, cancel their right to use Bethesda Medical Center and force them to fend for themselves just like ordinary Americans.

That way, they might have a real appreciation for what most of the rest of America goes through when it comes to trying to obtain medical care or put money away for retirement.

Let’s also reduce the size of Congressional office staffs. Business and industry across the nation is cutting back in a sour economy but House and Senate office budgets and staffs continue to grow.  Give each a secretary, a legislative assistant and a clerk to open and answer the phones and mail: No press secretaries, no $100,000-a-year plus chiefs of staff, no free mailings for propaganda-stuffed newsletters.

Think about it. If we make serving in Congress a real chore, we might not even need term limits. Most of them would go home after a term or two and look for real work.

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10 Responses to "Time to revisit term limits"

  1. Guardhouse lawyer  April 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

    There’s another side to the coin, Doug.

    When you go to a doctor, do you want one who knows what she’s doing or do you want some pup fresh out of med school who has not had years of practice to make her good? When you go to an attorney do you want someone who knows what he’s doing or do you want someone fresh out of law school who isn’t really sure where the court house is?

    Personally I want a physician who knows my ass from a handsaw and an attorney who knows that torts aren’t something you make in a kitchen.

    If you institute strict term limits you end up with a very powerful staff/lobbyist system running the legislatures. Check out Colorado. They have an opt out for their otherwise strict state and local term limits law, and each year more and more jurisdictions are opting out of the term limits provisions. They do so by a vote of the public. A referendum. Does that tell us anything? I certainly think so.

    I cannot see any overriding reason to require that amateurs be in charge of the legislature.

    • Almandine  April 27, 2010 at 7:58 am

      “I cannot see any overriding reason to require that amateurs be in charge of the legislature.”

      As if that isn’t what’s already in motion…

      Here’s Congressman Hank Johnson on the Armed Service Committee who’s concerned that sending 8,000 more US troops to Guam will make it “tip over and capsize” !!!

      http://www.ask.com/bar?q=guam+will+tip+over+and+capsize&page=1&qsrc=19&dm=all&ab=4&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzNZczIgVXjg&sg=i%2F44A5PIt5jbyF8qUPMQJ9ALFJvs2EV7FOKasbvzWqM%3D&tsp=1272369070988

      The founders were amateurs, albeit geniuses, and there’s no shortage of either geniuses or Hank Johnsons in this country. Most of the 536 we’ve got in DC could easily be replaced without a hiccup.

      But then, 5 will get you 10 that Hank Johnson will be reelected.

    • AustinRanter (AKA Gregg)  April 27, 2010 at 9:18 am

      I agree with Guardhouse.Lawyers in that instituting strict term limits create a powerful staff/lobbyist system running the legisature.

      I think California has term limits and as I recall, Phil Hoskins noted that their legislators have been even more influenced by lobbying groups.

      Whether we’re talking about State Legislatures or Congress….Lobbyists aren’t just money to these folks – Lobbyists are the eyes and ears to these seat holders. They are the gateway to information that legislators and congressional members can’t get any other way.

      As much as I dislike our current situation having a Corporate Fabricated Political System that manufactures our government representatives at all level – I still believe that when it hurts hard enough and long enough the electorates will either engage in their constitutional responsibility and rebuild Washington’s corrupt machine back to a government of, by, and for the people – or we will forever surrender our rights as the 4th branch of government, the most powerful branch of the check and balance system.

      IMHO, we have to confont our representatives, state by state, electorate by electorate and demand campaign finance reform and a TRUE lobbyists reform. Those running for office need to do so by individual funds only, not corporate funds. Lobbyists need to be very controlled over their assess and roles. They play an important role, but they should hold so much power over elected official.

      • AustinRanter (AKA Gregg)  April 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

        Correction on last sentence above: “They play and important role, but the SHOULD NOT hold so much power over elected officials.

  2. logtroll  April 26, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I haven’t had a solid opinion on the subject of term limits but the article below does throw a bit of light from a different angle for no limits.

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/03/throw-all-bums-out-bad-idea.html

    It seems that political finance reform, i.e. get corporations out of politics, might produce a large and diverse set of desired effects that would make term limits unnecessary, as well.

  3. Bill Cravener  April 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I would agree that we need term limits for senators and representatives but those we wish to limit terms of would have to vote this into law, correct? Ain’t never going to happen!

    Congressional Retirement Program? As above, ain’t never going to happen!

  4. woody188  April 26, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    All we really need to do is make lobbying and campaign contributions illegal. Special interests are in direct conflict with a true Constitutional Republic due to favoritism when all HUMANS should be treated equally. Corporations are not people, they are composed of people, and those people don’t deserve more from government than those not in charge of corporations. Board members and executive officers get more representation than the average joe and that just isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

  5. Almandine  April 26, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Your idea, Doug, doesn’t need much tweaking to be a real winner.

  6. Andy Woerner  April 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Here’s a list of 2010 candidates who support term limits:

    http://andyforussenate.blogspot.com/2010/04/2010-candidates-who-support-term-limits.html

    Andy Woerner for U.S. Senate Hawaii

  7. Carl Nemo  April 27, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Term limits…ha! Don’t expect any until the 12th of forever. The only possibility to insure such ‘term limits’ is a Robespierre styled guillolitne session…no?! : ))

    Carl Nemo **==

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