Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – February 7, 2021

The following is the second part of a two part series on federal term
limits.  As explained in the first part in order to impose term limits
on members of Congress it is necessary to amend the US Constitution,
which is not an easy process.  On the legislative side it requires a two
thirds vote in both houses of congress or a convention of states to be
called with two thirds of the state’s legislatures plus a three quarter
vote to ratify.  The founders made the process difficult to insure a
significant majority were in favor of an amendment, rather than a simple
majority.   The founders were wise in placing these kinds of constraints
on important government business in order to avoid bare majorities,
which would generally give rise to a significant portion of the
population unhappy with the results.  This is a lesson that apparently
recent governance in California and locally hasn’t learned.

With regard to term limits, there are a number of PROS that have
circulated each time the issue comes up.  Many state governments have
passed term limits on state office holders, and the pros for this action
generally begin with reducing corruption.  The idea is that long term
office holders often loose their way after a period of time in office,
and as a consequence use their office for self interest rather than what
is best for their constituents.  This has been demonstratively true for
federal office holders as well. The next argument is that federal office
was never meant to be a career, but a part time patriotic duty in a
limited government setting.    Another suggestion is that when new
people are introduced on a more regular basis, new ideas tend to enter
the mix which could be beneficial.  And finally, money and fund raising
would be reduced and kept out of the perennial political arena
eliminating vast sums of money and time needed to run for office.  I
can’t say that I agree with all of the pros as it seems that corruption
and big money are here to stay, no matter how often representatives are
subject to change.  It would continue to be necessary for voters to
learn all they can about their perspective representatives to avoid a
corrupt or incompetent representative.

As far as CONS to term limits, the first thing that comes to mind is
that it would prevent voters from voting for people who best represent
them after the office holder’s term expires.  In the same vein, it would
eliminate many experienced lawmakers from using what they have learned for the benefit of their voters. Yes, it may disqualify corrupt,
powerful office holders, but it may also disqualify those that are truly
beneficial to the governing process.  Another problem with term limits
that has been expressed is that it would prevent long term relationships
from forming, sometimes critical for passage of important pieces of
legislation.  And finally, even with shorten time in office, corruption
doesn’t seem to have much of a problem working its way into the mix.

I really like the idea of a substantially stream lined federal
government that only needs a part time legislative branch, something
that was intended at the formation.  Term limits would seem to be a very
good idea if federal office holders were only meant to handle the tasks
outlined in the constitution and nothing more.  Corruption, big money,
lobbying and other dubious practices could be kept to a minimum.  Power for most other thorny questions would revert to the States where it
belongs in the first place. The importance of the federal government
would be reduced to only those tasks it was constitutionally obligated
to fulfill.  Federal officials would become less important and
government would come closer to home and more importantly closer to the voters.

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