I didn’t expect to revisit the issue so soon, but Sen. Jim DeMint introduced a Constitutional amendment requiring term limits for members of Congress (three in House, two in Senate). DeMint has to support of fellow Republicans Tom Coburn, Sam Brownback and Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
DeMint spent three terms in the House before winning a Senate seat in 2004. He originally won his House seat when Bob Inglis, keeping his self-imposed three term limit promise, declined to seek reelection. Inglis has since returned to the House, and is currently serving his (second) third term. If one is to advocate term limits, I do not understand the distinction between chambers of Congress, or consecutiveness of terms.
Republicans often campaign on a line of “running government like a business” but businesses don’t limit employees tenure based only on the length of that tenure. Experience makes a person better at their occupation, whether its banking, accounting or legislating.
On MSNBC this morning a reporter for Roll Call brought up a point I hadn’t considered, if experience crafting legislation is not in the hands of legislators, it will be in the hands of lobbyists.
The best argument against the amendment? We already have term limits. Two years in the House, six in the Senate. Then citizens determine their representatives again.
Tammy Baldwin’s slightly-more-serious opponent, Chad Lee, issued a press release yesterday declaring term limits the solution to the country’s economic problems.
Lee did not offer any specifics to his proposal, such as number of terms allowed under his “plan” which seems like a significant aspect. Maybe Lee is hoping to avoid the pitfall of Minnesota’s Gil Gutknecht, who set a seven term limit for himself which he attempted to break, but was defeated in 2006 by Tim Walz.
Lee’s press release never succeeds in tying term limits to a better economy. Two paragraphs on the economy are interspersed with four on term limits, never coming together in any coherent way. I expect little from such a terrible idea, however.
Simply put, terms are limited. Two years in the House, six in the Senate. Cries for term limits, no matter what party they are coming from, are anti-government, politically-motivated (chew that one over) stunts that don’t accomplish anything.
In other shocking news, a politician wants your money. Zach at Blogging Blue has a good write-up on Terrence Wall’s latest fundraising email, at one point comparing it to;
“A Nigerian prince who wanted help obtaining his inheritance”
The post is a good primer on Wall, Feingold’s likely opponent in the race for US Senate next year. Check it out.
Yesterday WisOpinion linked to a letter in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune by Jeff Tyberg about term limits for Wisconsin legislators. The letter reluctantly proposed allowing longer terms for the Assembly and Senate (extending Assembly terms to four years and Senate terms to six) if total terms of office were capped at a single term. This is a terrible idea — for democracy and good government.
First, term limits already exist, as the author noted. After two and four years, members of the Assembly and Senate must win an election if they wish to return to their seat. If a constituent approves of the work their representative has done, the constituent most likely wants that representative to return to office. If the constituent disapproves, they will vote for someone else.
Second, unless Assembly elections were to be staggered (which would violate either the authors theory of a four year maximum term or create chaos when determining who gets serve a couple extra years without facing election), Wisconsin would have a brand new Assembly every four years. That is ninety-nine people in charge of drafting the budget and laws of the state who have zero experience doing so.
I understand Tyberg’s misgivings about lifelong politicians. His state and federal representatives have each been in office 40 years. But in the fall of every even-numbered year the people of these districts mark ballots in favor of their continued representation. Who is the government (don’t forget, term-limits would ultimately be imposed by the government) to decree a candidate (meeting age [another story] and residency requirements) invalid?
Tyberg himself has been a candidate for both the Assembly and Congress. Candidates have ran on platforms of term-limits before, and when that term was up, recanted their earlier declaration (I’m thinking specifically of Gil Gutknecht). Is it because once they became legislators, they realized the value a senior legislator provides their district? Possibly. Or maybe Tyberg is right and they are just corrupted by lobbyists. But lobbyists don’t vote, constituents do.
I’m not saying the system is perfect. Power comes from money and lobbyists have the money. I’ve written on the value of incumbency in an election, and it might not be fair.
I’ve got a lot more on this, but I just got word my laptop is up and running again so I’m going to get it. Regular updates return tonight!