The corruption and inefficiency in the United States Congress is something that almost everyone has come to deal with. Many who see this dilemma turn to Congressional term limits via a constitutional amendment. According to Rasmussen Reports, in 2016, 74 percent of Americans support congressional term limits for all members of Congress.
Even many members of Congress have instituted constitutional amendments and pieces of legislation designed to reduce their own terms, including H.J.Res.6 introduced in 2017 by Representative Ron DeSantis (R).
Ultimately, Americans say that term limits are a necessary step for reducing corruption and inefficiency in Congress, and many contend would force our representatives to better represent the people’s wishes.
Political scientists attribute many potential positive outcomes of term limits, with seven key benefits:
1. Federal term limits would bring more ideas to Congress as new people continue to cycle in. 2. People would be more likely to vote, knowing that their elected official would not be “secure in their position” and that their vote would have a greater impact without the incumbency effect 3. Term limits mean that politicians would spend less time worried about reelection. 4. Lobbyists would have a lot less power over members of Congress. 5. It would give newly elected officials more power and equally would diminish the power of senior members. 6. Members of Congress would be less corrupt, because they would have less time to learn how to maneuver Congress to their own personal gain. 7. It would create “rogue politicians” less concerned about reelection and more about their constituents and so they would pursue ideas often criticized for being a “non-electable quality.”
These reasons for term limits are pretty substantial and very appealing to most Americans. Despite such wide scale popular appeal, many wonder why they haven’t been passed.
The answer lies in the substantial downsides to term limits that many prominent politicians, party leaders, and political scientists say outweigh the benefits.
Their reasoning also is very appealing and is summed up in six different key reasons:
11 Term limits would severely curtail choices for voters. 2. Members would have decreased knowledge of legislative process and lawmaking in Congress, hence leading to ineffective laws, errors and more power given to legislative aids than actual members of Congress. 3. The term limits would limit incentives for members of Congress to become knowledgeable on policy and policy procedure. 4. The limits would automatically kick out a publicly accepted effective member. 5. Due to a lack of knowledge and experience, politicians would turn overwhelmingly to special interest lobbyists for information and guidance. 6. “Rogue Politicians” could go rogue: Knowing they don’t need to worry about being re-elected, they won’t actually represent the people.
I hope you can see that term limits aren’t as glorious as they seem to be. Whether or not we should have them is ultimately a personal judgment of whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.