A Call For Congressional Term Limits

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A Call For Congressional Term Limits

Written: 06/27/2012

Everyone knows that if President Obama gets reelected in November his second term will be his last. 
 
When the Constitution was written there was no presidential term limit.  President George Washington served two terms and then stepped aside to retire at his home in Mount Vernon.  Many wanted Washington to serve a third term – or for life.  Some even wanted him to be king.  Washington was a towering figure in our young nation and many valued his efforts and leadership – particularly those in what was known as the Federalist party – those who believed in a strong central government.
 
For many decades Presidents followed Washington’s precedent of only serving two terms as president. But still the Constitution did not prevent a President to run for a third term.  It wasn’t until 1940 when President Franklin Roosevelt ran for and won a third term.  He was attacked by some for not following President Washington’s two term president.  Eleven years later in 1951 the 22nd Amendment was ratified to limit presidents to serving two terms.
 
What about term limits for other branches of the federal government?  Most of us know that Supreme Court justices serve for life. Perhaps this is not the best thing for America – perhaps Supreme Court justices should not serve for life -- but that will be a discussion for another time.
 
What about Congress? Ah yes Congress – the branch of government that the Constitution charges with making laws among other things. What about term limits for them?  After all, they played a role in getting presidential term limits.  But there is to date no amendment to the Constitution that limits a term for a House member or Senator.  One of the main reasons is Congress itself would have to vote a term limit – and I don’t believe that will ever happen without a massive public outcry.
 
As stated there is no term limit for a Congressperson.  Here are some of the longest serving members of Congress:
 
United States House of Representatives:
 
*Listing is for active members only
 
John Dingell (MI): 57 years (1955)
John Conyers (MI): 47 years (1965)
Charles Rangel (NY): 41 years (1971)
Bill Young (FL): 41 years (1971)
Fortney Stark (CA): 39 years (1973)
 
Full List: http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/seniority-112.pdf
 
 United States Senate:
 
*Listing is for longest serving all time
 
Robert Byrd (WV): 51 years (1959-2010)
Daniel Inouye (HI): 48 years (1963-present)
Strom Thurmond (SC): 47 years (1954-2003)
Edward Kennedy (MA): 46 years (1962-2009)
Carl Hayden (AZ): 41 years (1927-1969)
 
Full List: http://www.senate.gov/senators/Biographical/longest_serving.htm
 
As you can see these members of Congress serve/have served much longer in Congress than any President of the United States.  And what do you hear most of what the present Congress is doing? Bickering.  Not allowing votes.  Not writing bills together.  Blocking votes.  Being partisan and probably not getting done all it could be getting done for the country.  Did you know that the members of the Constitutional Convention debated and wrote the Constitution in 100 working days?  What has this Congress done in the last 100 working days?  If there are term limits on the President there should also be term limits on members of Congress.  Perhaps their term years should also be altered – a term in the House is two years and a term in the Senate is 6 years as the Constitution indicates.  Perhaps members of the Senate should be allowed to serve longer than members of the House as the Senate is the “upper house” of Congress.  I don’t claim to have all the answers on this issue but I know for the good of the country that term limits for Congress should be a debated on and decided upon issue.