Term Limits For Legislators

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Term Limits For Legislators When the Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1789, it was without direction regarding term limits for legislators. At the time, professional politicians were unheard of, and the idea of someone serving for more than one or two terms was unlikely. So the Constitution did not formally address the issue of term limits, although it was understood that officeholders would limit themselves to one or two terms and then return to private life (1). With the advent of the modern state, however, came the making of Congress as a career, and thus the voluntary removal of oneself from office, as envisioned by the founders, is no longer regularly undertaken in the United States Congress. The structure of the Congress supports members who have held office for several terms thereby undermining the idea of the citizen-legislator put forth by the founders. Instead of citizens who will soon return to the community that elected them, professional Congress-people spend more time in Washington than in t heir home states, and usually make Congress their career. What has developed in recent years, in response to congressional careerism, is the drive to impose limits on the length of time someone may serve in Congress. Currently, advocates of term limits are calling for two terms in the Senate, and three in the House. It is possible, then, for a member to serve six years in the House, twelve years in the Senate, eight years as Vice President, and eight years as President, a total of thirty-six years. It is not unlikely, therefore, that there will continue to be career politicians. The issue is not about total time that one may participate in government, rather it is about how long one may serve in a particular capacity. Term limits enjoy popular, but not political, support, thereby polarizing the electorate and the elected. This paper will discuss the popular support for term limits, the arguments on both sides, and draw conclusions about the need for Congressional term limits in the United States Support for term limits encompasses close to three-quarters of the American population (2). The question is why. The simple answer is that the American people no longer trust a system they view as corrupt and biased towards the few. But the issue is really not this simple, nor is its basis of support. While on the surface it is corruption and bias... ... middle of paper ... ...'s Path to a Representative Congress" U.S. Term Limits Foundation Outlook Series July, 1994 Vol.3 No.2 www.termlimits.org/index.shtml Fund, John H "Term Limitation: An Idea Whose Time Has Come" Policy Analysis No. 141 October 30, 1990 www.cato.org/pubs/pas/policyanalysis.html "Term Limits Excellent New Strategy" The Florida Times Union October 1, 1996 www.termlimits.org/index.shtml Jacob, Paul "Choosing Term Limits" The Washington Times August 7, 1996 www.termlimits.org Jacob, Paul "Whose Government is it Anyway?" www.termlimits.org/index.shtml Kolbe, John "Term Limits Sledgehammer" Phoenix Gazette June 7, 1996 www.termlimits.org Levine, Herbert M. Point-Counterpoint: Readings in American Government St. Martin's Press, New York. 1995 Nelson, Lars-Erik "A Very Special Class of Federal Employee" The Washington Post January 5, 1996 www.termlimits.org/index.shtml O'Connor, Karen and Larry J. Sabato American Government: Roots and Reform Allyn and Bacon, Massachusetts. 1996 Petracca, Mark "The Poison of Professional Politics" Policy Analysis No. 151 May 10, 1996 www.cato.org/pubs/pas/policyanalysis..html
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