Josh Hughes | United States
Of the incumbents that ran for the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, 91% won. To put that into perspective, that number is actually lower than in recent elections. While not every representative that ran was a lifetime politician, too many are. The Senate is not much better, with 84% of running incumbents winning another term. This number is more representative of recent trends. Clearly, the 2018 midterm elections proved that Congressional term limits are essential in America.
Why Are Term Limits an Issue?
There are dozens of senators and representatives who have served at least 20 years in Congress. The longest-serving member of the Senate is currently Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who has been in office since 1975. Don Young from Alaska assumed office in 1973 and is the most tenured member of the House.
Plenty of fine congressmen have served these long terms. However, there are still issues with the idea of lifetime politicians. In a democratic republic like the U.S., the only way for the government to be for the people is for it to be of the people. This does not mean bureaucrats and Washington cronies, but rather sensible, everyday Americans. Someone who has been in office nearly a half-century is unlikely to still know the rapidly-changing interests of the country.
An incumbent is far more likely to be elected than a challenger. This prevents new members and ideas from entering the political realm at the federal level. It only serves to disadvantage the country. A fresh group every few years with new takes and policies would be more beneficial; the same ideas do not work in vastly different cultures and climates.
How to Create Term Limits
What Congress would willingly limit its own power? The reality is, this one probably will not. However, under Article V of the Constitution, the states can add an amendment to the document. A 2/3 vote from the states is needed to propose the amendment and hold a convention, and a 3/4 vote is needed from state legislatures to ratify the amendment.
Grassroots campaigns such as the “U.S. Term Limits” movement are operating to raise support for this issue. This campaign has garnered millions of signatures via its petition and even has support from members of Congress.
A Fair Amendment
A proper term limits amendment should limit congressmen to 12 years in office. This could occur entirely as a senator or representative, or as some combination of the two. Those already over 12 years would be ineligible to run again, once their term is over. Twelve years gives each congressman enough time to be influential without falling out of touch from American interests. This ensures that nearly every decade will have a new set of congressmen, ensuring fresh faces and ideas.
Many people already back the idea of congressional term limits. In fact, 15 states already have laws in place that limit the terms for state legislatures. It is not an impossible task to apply the same thinking to the federal level. While this may not seem like something that will happen soon, the movement is constantly gaining support and momentum, and it would not be surprising to see important changes in the near future.
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