Congress and The Change in Term Limits


In 1994, for the first time in 40 years, Congress was drastically changed. The
Democratic majority was uprooted and new, lively, freshmen were instated with a
job to undertake. As part of the Republican=s AContract with America,@ these
new Republicans had to revise the current Congressional term limit status. In
undertaking this task, these men and women ran into a seemingly stone road-block.
This roadblock consisted of long-term, carreerists who were unwilling to change.
The problem was not that there were no Congressmen who were committed to real
change elected in 1994 because there were, but Congress was highly dominated by
long-term careerists in both parties who seemed to have more loyalty to the
system than to their constituents. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "Whenever a man
has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct." (Oxford
dictionary of quotations, p.272) Over time, career legislators are more likely
to promote the interest of the establishment of which they are part than that of
the larger public. This fact is not surprising. If most of a persons time is
spent meeting with lobbyists, constituents, and bureaucrats, that person may
actually come to believe what these influential people are saying. This is why
new blood needs to enter Congress more frequently, in order to avoid the highly
influenced Congress that is filled with old people with old ideals. Needless to
say the once optimistic freshmen were unsuccessful in their task, and it=s plain
to see why. Until that changes, Congress is not going to change. Congressmen
need to get back to basics and realize that they are in office to serve their
people, and not themselves.

What would change Congress is term limits. By the middle of last year nearly
half of the states had restricted, almost all of them by popular vote, the
number of terms that their members of Congress could serve. But then the Supreme
Court intervened. In U.S. Term Limits, Inc., et al. v. Thornton et al., a narrow
five-to-four majority voided these restrictions, stating that "allowing
individual States to craft their own qualifications for Congress would thus
erode the structure envisioned by the Framers, a structure that was designed, in
the words of the Preamble to our Constitution, to form a Amore perfect [email protected]
(US Law Week, 1995)

Congress, naturally, refuses to approve a constitutional amendment on term
limits. Most state legislatures also refuse to approve term-limit measures. And
now the Supreme Court refuses to allow the people to approve term limits. This
fact shows the importance of developing new strategies for subjecting members of
the U.S. Congress to term limits. There are many ways in which this could occur,
but before one can decide which might be the most effective, one must first
realize why they are so necessary.

The election of 1994 was supposed to be one of dramatic change. Three dozen
Democratic incumbents fell, but the overall House reelection rate still ran
roughly 90 percent with 314 of the 348 members remaining unmoved, and the Senate
reelection rate ran 92 percent with 24 of the 26 members up for election unmoved.

Absolutely no Republican incumbents, no matter how flawed, lost in the
election of 1994. These sad statistics show that no matter revolutionary the
voters get, most incumbents still win, and careerists still largely dominate
policy. Edward H. Crane states that, "Those who run for Congress these days are
generally those who find the prospect of spending a significant portion of their
lives as a politician to be an attractive option. Politicians are less likely
to have a real life before entering politics. Many political pros start out as
state legislators in their early twenties and never stop. (Crane (2), p. 251)
Validating this statement is Senator Warren Rudman, a Republican from New
Hampshire, who explained that he retired because "the longer you stay in public
office, the more distant the outside world becomes." (Wall Street Journal, p.
A22) But he is one of the few to voluntarily step aside when his proper time was
up. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, senior representatives
are more likely than junior legislators to vote for pork and special-interest
economic intervention. (Moore, p.21) The National Taxpayers Union figures, in a
recent survey, demonstrate that, on average, spending rises with terms served.
(Payne, p.175) Just as important, perhaps most importantly, is the corrupting
influence of power. With seniority comes influence, and with influence often
comes corrupting power.

The constant worry of the upcoming re-election is also a contributing factor in
a Senators actions, even the most ideologically committed representative may
slip into