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Term Limits

Page history last edited by Mike 11 months, 1 week ago

Do you sometimes get the sense that Congress lags behind the rest of us—that they are playing catch-up on issues like social media, data collection, and basically any trend that has occurred in the last few decades? You’re not alone.

In one poll, 82% of voters agreed with the statement “Members of Congress stay in office too long.” The average age of Representatives and Senators is 57.6 and 62.9, respectively, with a significant proportion having served for several decades. It’s no wonder that, by one measure, 74% of registered voters support term limits for members of Congress - a number that has persisted for quite some time.  

In the 1990s, there was a drive to initiate term limits at the state level, but the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in U.S. Term Limits Inc. v. Thornton that states could not impose term limits on their own members of Congress. The House of Representatives passed a bill 227 – 204 to impose term limits of 12 years (6 terms) in the House and 12 years (2 terms) in the Senate. This fell short of the 2/3rds they needed to pass a Constitutional amendment, and the effort stalled thereafter, though dozens of members of Congress continue to support similar bills on both sides.  

The benefits of establishing term limits are numerous:

  • Lawmakers would be more motivated to pass successful policy if they knew that their time in D.C. had an eventual time limit.  

  • They would become less beholden to the way of Washington and to trying to climb the ladder within their own party.  

  • There would be a period of time when they did not worry about fundraising or reelection and could do what they knew to be right without any fear or concern.  

  • It would ensure a sense of rejuvenation as new leaders with new ideas regularly rotated into Washington without being there for literally decades.  It would mean a likely end to the gerontocracy.  

Three quarters of Americans support this – we know something is wrong with sending people to Washington to govern for decades on end. It changes people in a way that disconnects them from the rest of us. If you’re tired of Washington D.C. seeming behind the curve and out of touch, this is a great way to change it.  

Problems to be Solved

Elected officials spend decades in office, losing touch with the rest of us.

The constant need to worry about reelection prevents elected officials from doing what we elected them to do - govern!

The relationships built over time lead to special interests and lobbyists gaining outsized influence over elected officials.

“Term limits in DC are a good idea. They would lead legislators to get something done and then go home. Term limits would also make room for new leaders with fresh ideas. The drawback is that they would entrench the non-legislative bureaucracy, since legislators would have a harder time organizing and forming coalitions. The best balance, then, is a term limit that would be long enough for expertise and coalitions to build without letting legislators become careerist and self-dealing.” -Andrew Yang

We Should

Institute term limits for all officeholders.


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