While trolling TheBlaze and reading through comments to political news stories, I found that many comments suggested the enforcement of Congressional term limits. The suggestion seems logical. After all, the President of the United States may only serve two terms, why not Congress?
So, would term limits be helpful?
To broach the subject rationally, lets look at some facts:
- The President of the United States is elected every four years and is restricted to two terms.
- Congressional House of Representative members are elected every two years.
- Congressional Senate Representative members are elected every six years.
What is quickly obvious is that the presidency is already term limited. This is because the executive branch has power equal to that of the entire legislative branch. While Congress (the States) can pass law that has been vetoed by the executive branch, the executive branch can still refuse to execute these laws. So, they are ‘technically’ on the books, but not enforced.
The executive branch represents the United States as a whole, not any State in particular, and can make many military as well as domestic decisions without the approval of Congress (the States). Allowing this position of authority to be filled by one person, without regard to term limits, would make the authority given to Congress (the States) to make law, quite useless since the executive branch could continue to refuse to enact the law(s) that Congress (the States) passed.
A very recent example of the executive branch’s power is the health care legislation that was signed into law in 2009. Congress put no provision to exclude tax-payer funded abortions in the bill. The executive branch used it’s power to ‘refuse to execute payment of tax-payer funded abortions’ in order to close this loophole. So long as the executive branch does not reverse this decision, no abortions will be funded with tax-payer money.
So would term limits be helpful in Congress too?
The House of Representatives and the Senate represent each individual state. Each State has two Senators, and House members are allocated by population. The House of Representatives job is to discuss and/or pass law that helps the populace. The Senate’s job is to ensure that the House of Representatives does not pass law that is partial to populace only, but that law equally represents each individual State’s interests.
On the surface, term limits look like an easy way to make sure the that legislative branch can not abuse power in the same way term limits restrict the executive branch. But, this branch of government consists of 535 different people with differing views and agendas and every delegate has an equal vote. While term limits could be imposed, they are not a necessity because no “one” person in Congress counts for more than his or her vote, aside from the majority leaders.
With regards to the majority leaders, since they occupy extremely powerful positions, two term limits for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro-Tem might carry relevancy. These two positions carry the responsibility of appointing heads of committees and calling legislation to the floor for discussion and/or vote. By enforcing term limits on these two public offices; the Speaker of the House of Representatives would have four (4) years (or two election cycles) to lead the House and the President Pro-Tem would have twelve (12) years (or two election cycles) to lead the Senate before being required to vacate to the next majority leaders in line, legislation would likely get called to the floor that was previously ignored without the majority losing a foothold in Congress.
The other 535 members of Congress should not be subject to term limits for many reasons.
What would be the motivational factor for a member of Congress to represent it’s constituency if he/she can not be continually re-elected by the constituency? Furthermore, why should a State have to lose good representation, just for the sake of “term limits”? I am a firm believer that with age comes wisdom (in most cases) and with wisdom comes reason. Both of these attributes are important in person filling a publicly elected office. Especially in the Senate where each State’s rights must we equally represented.
Term limits of Congressional delegates are already enforced by the election process for each State. If the representative of the State is re-elected, it is by the will of the people who voted for them.