Over 90% of representatives and over 80% of senators were re-elected in 2008. Far from being a sign that Americans are pleased with the job they are doing – a voters’ dislike for both houses of Congress is extremely high at the moment – this statistic demonstrate the thesis of this article, that mandatory term limits are needed to restore representative government and ensure accountability.
We need folks coming in from the outside who have paid taxes and created jobs and lived under the regulations that these career politicians have created," said Jim Rutledge, a Republican attorney running to unseat Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who has 33 years in Congress between the House and Senate.
Rutledge is right. Ms. Mikulski is clearly a career politician, a breed that our Founding Fathers had no use for. Nor should we. The trappings of power and authority were meant to be shared in this republic, not closely held for decades by a governing elite.
"The powers of incumbency in this country are so great that it is nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent, barring death, indictment, scandal or retirement," said Philip Blumel, a Florida financial planner and president of the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits.
Indeed, the contrast between our approval of Congress and our ability to replace wayward members makes the unfair advantage incumbents enjoy crystal clear.
Curtis Gans, the director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, said term limits are a terrible idea because they take power away from the people. In a term-limited legislature, Gans said, power would fall to unelected staff and lobbyists who would keep their jobs while elected officials rotated out.
Term limits would also restrict people with the most experience and ability from serving in Congress and would contribute to the election of extreme, polarizing candidates, Gans said.
I recently had the chance to briefly discuss the issue with Republican Congressman John Culberson of Texas and it should come as no surprise that he was against term limits. His logic, like that of Gans, was that he was just now getting some seniority and leverage over the machinations that make Congress go.
I find this logic extremely self-serving. First, governing is not so complex that a new congressman cannot figure it out. The process itself is undoubtedly a maze that would have to be simplified to accommodate new members of the body. This, like the fresh blood terms limits would inject, would only help matters. Perhaps then Congress could read the bills it passes.
Second, under a term-limited system, seniority would be gained and lost more quickly, ensuring that no one hand was on the controls for too long. Clearly that’s not the case now, something the opacity of the health care debate and its many backroom deals only served to bring to the attention of Americans everywhere.
This November, first demand new representation and then force them to accept the will of the people by implementing term limits on both houses of Congress. That’s one decision you’ll never regret, I promise.