Term Limits for Congress, Part I

In recent days, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has submitted a bill calling for amending the US Constitution to limit the terms of Congressional representatives in the House to three and members of the Senate to two. Many people have come out in support of this proposal, particularly conservative Republicans and those frustrated in general with our Congressional members. Toomey’s legislation possesses a certain degree of appeal, to be sure. Gone would be the days of 30- and 40-year careers in the congress. Gone would be the stranglehold on our nation by the same corrupt group of cronies getting re-elected ad nauseam.

But is this just another quick fix to a serious problem? And is it even the correct solution to the difficulty at hand? Term limits would not prove an easy fix, even if they were to somehow pass the Senate. The proposal would still need to overcome numerous hurdles before becoming law. Our Founders wisely gave us a system that could be amended if needed, but with a process and requirements such that we would only correct it when we had very compelling reasons for doing so.

The case could even be made, given documented instances of voting fraud, election rigging, and electronic manipulation of voting machines that such a term-limit proposal diminishes any gains achieved by circumventing the established system since term limits would ensure congressional turnover.
To me, the ultimate question is this: What flaw in the election of federal representatives requires us to amend the Constitution? Was there some design defect in what the Founders gave us? They apparently saw nothing wrong with a representative being elected to multiple terms. Likewise, there was no limit, initially, on the office of the President.

 

it is incumbent upon us, “We, the People,” to make the necessary corrections

 

The issues identified in this article as grounds for altering the Constitution are not flaws in the term of office provisions. The deficiencies are elsewhere. In essence, in amending the Law of the Land as Senator Toomey is advocating, we would be implementing the wrong solution and correcting a symptom instead of the underlying malady. Further, the Founders gave us two methods to deal with an instance of an undesirable’s occupying a seat in Congress for longer than we can tolerate: expulsion by other members of the same body, and the public’s voting the offending member out at the next election.

Since we know the House and Senate are rarely of a mind to expel one of their own, it is incumbent upon us, “We, the People,” to make the necessary corrections. One prominent individual to speak out in opposition to the term-limit proposal is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He has argued that a mechanism already exists to dispatch with wayward members of the federal legislature, since every election cycle presents us with the opportunity to “throw the bums out.”

I happen to agree with Huckabee, for once.

And if you consider the flip side of the coin, you’ll see another reason why the proposed amendment makes little sense. Sure, it would regularly remove all bad eggs from Congress. But it would also remove upstanding members who honored their oath of office, served the people, and will be remembered for years to come as champions of the Republic. Unfortunately, there are few who presently fit this description, but if I believed I was represented by such a congressman, I would certainly want him to remain in office as long as possible for the good of our Republic.
It is my contention that we receive the government we deserve. Amazingly, though, according to reliable surveys Mr. Huckabee has quoted, only about a third of people actually want to return an incumbent to Washington. Most Americans would rather dispense with their own members of Congress, and yet, most incumbents prevail in Congressional elections, and unfortunately, the same voter outlook holds true of office-holders at the local and state levels. Why?

Why is it that we do not vote the miscreants out when we don’t really care to see them re-elected? My answer will appear in my next article.

  • Michael Harrison
  • http://www.nepaliberty.com
  • Michael Harrison is founder of the Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty group and hosts an online blog at unleashingliberty.wordpress.com


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