Term Limits: “Friend or Foe”

Issue

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017 the 115th congress was sworn in as the current Congress of the United States of America. In this congress, both houses, Senate and House of Representatives, are controlled by the Republican Party. When Donald Trump is sworn in as the President of the U.S. on January Twentieth, the Republicans will have control of both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. It would be foolish to think that Republicans are not going to capitalize on this advantage to pass major legislation.

Well, the country is only four days into this congress and one audatious congressman has decided to shake things up a bit. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has proposed an amendment to the constitution to institute congressional term limits. Senator Cruz said the following regarding his amendment:

“D.C. is broken…The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people. It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.”

Rule

There really isn’t much rule to go off of when it comes to congressional term limits. The last time the congress passed an amendment was in 1992, and the last time it debated term limits, in general, was in 1947. The Twenty-second amendment was passed in response to the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Most of the presidents limited themselves to two terms in office; following the example of our first president, George Washington. Roosevelt, however, ran for four terms so the country would have a strong figurehead as it left the Great Depression and entered World War II.

The congress and country wanted to ensure that the traditional, two-term limit would be kept in place. In response they passed the Twenty second amendment. Roosevelt wasn’t the only president to try and exceed the usual limit. Theodore Roosevelt also tried to gain a third term in the White House; but his presidential aspirations were rejected by the country.

Term Limits are not just an idea which sprang up in the American political arena. The Greek city states of Athens and Sparta both ensured that the representatives in their respective city councils would be cycled every few years. The Romans also dabbled with term limits during the Roman Republic. In early American history, members of the Pennsylvania legislature were cycled out every few years. Actually, under the Articles of Confederation -the first document which the United States was governed by- one could not be a delegate to the Continental Congress for “more than three years in any term of six years”. For example, from the year 2000-2006 one may not serve as a member of the Constitutional Congress for more than three years.

Analysis

Like most things in life, term limits have both their pros and cons. Some of the pros are: it roots out corruption; it guards against career politicians; and it increases the flow of new ideas in congress. Some of the cons are: it removes experienced congressmen from power; and politicians who do not have to face their respective electorates again will not care what the people think.

Term limits ensure that no politician gets too close to any major lobbying group. It tries to ensure that the congressman votes based upon what the people want instead of what big corporate lobbyists want. Term limits ensure that there is always new faces in the congress and with that it creates a new flow of idea and arguments to be settled in the Senate and House chambers. With term limits congress will become more representative of the people rather than of corporate lobbyists.

Unfortunately, when old congressmen leave they take with them the connections and wisdom they have learned while in the congress. They are no longer there to help and direct new members on how the congress runs and works. They take with them their connections and influences which, in this field of business, is extremely important to have. Term limits could also have a negative effect on a member of congress towards the end of their terms. If a congressman knows that he will no longer have to face the electorate again, what is to prevent him from voting however he wants or even conducting himself in a manner which would certainly not be appropriate as an upstanding representative (i.e. Take more corporate and lobbyist money than usual)? Why should he care what the people think; he will not have to ask for thier vote again.

Conclusion

Even though this conversation could go on for hours, this long [and probably boring, at this point] article must come to an end. Who knows what would happen? Maybe the incoming administration will support this amendment wholeheartedly, and ensure to see it pass and then ratified by the states; or it could die at the hands of greedy politicians hungry and eager for their next campaign. Only time will tell whether Cruz’s amendment will come to fruition.

Comments and shares are always appreciated. It would be great to hear what the rest of the readers think on this issue!

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