If a sample of Americans was asked, “Will Barack Obama be president in 20 years?” most would be able to respond with an unequivocal no. What is questioned far less often is the status of our legislative body. Why should representatives not be similarly limited to eight years? Why should senators be able to serve for decades? Imposing term limits on congressmen is a necessary step for the United States in order to eliminate petty careerist objectives and put an end to the “same old, same old” politics our country is forced to deal with, year in and year out.
The cost of a Congressional campaign is massive, both in dollars and time. Congressmen are public servants and are paid by the tax dollars you and I contribute every year. Yet, with reelections every two years in the House of Representatives and every six years in the Senate, these government-paid employees waste months campaigning for reelection when they should be working. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and long weeks on the road waste resources and prevent these officials from completing the work they were originally elected to do. Term limits would stop these wasteful practices by limiting each candidate to only two campaigns (or whatever the limit imposed) while at the same time putting the representatives’ time in office to better use.
Imposing term limits would drastically change the dynamics of a congressman’s tenure. Instead of giving the speeches and signing the legislation that work best to get them reelected, congressmen would be able to focus on doing what is best for the country. They would go from their current, personally oriented goals to a more open perspective, concentrating instead on doing as much as they can with their limited time to benefit the nation. Careerism and selfish politics plague the upper ranks of Congress and must be eliminated for the legislative branch to work as best as it can. Some members slyly campaign and please their districts for decades, surviving 40 years in office while collecting the hefty annual salary of $174,000.
These congressmen, who spend almost their entire professional lives in Washington, become more and more subject to corruption and the influences of corporate America. Big name Wall Street traders work hard to influence congressmen, and in many cases, are successful. The more times a candidate is reelected, the more subject he or she is to this sort of corruption. With no term limits, Congress becomes full of subservient representatives who sign off on financially beneficial legislation, not for the country’s sake, but for the sake of wealthy investment bankers. These corruptors, in turn, donate large amounts of money for campaign purposes and work hard to get the representatives they prefer reelected.
Opponents of Congressional term limits argue that the so called high turnover rate would result in broken compromises, hindering important legislation and bipartisan compromise. Senators serve for six years each term. If a two term limit were imposed, similar to the presidential limit, they could still serve for 12 years. Is 12 years really a high turnover rate? Senators would be left plenty of time to compromise and work on important legislation. Though a two term limit in the House of Representatives would limit representatives to only four years, perhaps an alternate limit of four or six terms could apply to the House, also allowing ample time for debate and bipartisan cooperation.
Another argument against term limits is that they are not directly spelled out in the Constitution, and adding them would limit the democracy of the legislative branch by eliminating potential candidates (e.g. those who have already served) from office. Constitutional amendments have been critical to our country’s history and should not be underestimated or avoided. The presidential term limit, now considered an ancient and typical portion of our politics, was itself installed as the 22nd amendment only 59 years ago.
More than anything, Congressional term limits would constantly invigorate our country’s legislative body with new ideas and fresh blood from excited politicians. New up and comers would not be jaded by the frequent failures and disagreements within the Capitol building, but would instead be eager and ready to face new challenges as our country encounters them. No longer will congressmen grow cynical and senile, yet still get elected merely due to tradition.
Often, when a presidential election occurs, the new president is gladly welcomed and seen as an influx of change that will work hard to fix our nation’s problems. Why shouldn’t the same logic that is applied to the chief executive be applied to our chief legislative body?
One of the biggest issues with the U.S. government today is stagnation. Lack of compromise, long filibusters, and endless stalemates are more common in our legislative body than the actual creation of legislation. Term limits would end this theme and get our government back on the track of productive, helpful, and efficient lawmaking.