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We're Mad As Hell, And We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

I've always wondered why the President is the only elected official from the "big three" to have to operate under the rule of term limits. While I believe this to be the correct rule to follow, none of the congressional members have to abide by the same restriction.

This is especially distrubing regarding the office of the Senate, as this so called "most exclusive club in America" weild's perhaps the most power of any elected representative branch of political positions in the country.
The following is a list compiled of active senators, with an arbitrary cut off date of 1989, to exhibit just how entrenched some of the people in our political system have become:


Chris Dodd, Connecticut -1981
Joe Biden, Delaware - 1973
Daniel Inouye, Hawaii - 1963
Barbara Mikulski, Maryland - 1987
Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts - 1962
John Kerry, Massachusetts - 1985
Carl Levin, Michigan - 1979
Max Baucus, Montana - 1979
Harry Reid, Nevada - 1987
Jeff Bigaman, New Mexico - 1983
Kent Conrad, N. Dakota - 1987
Pat Leahy, Vermont - 1975
Robert Byrd, W. Virginia - 1959
John Rockafeller, W. Virginia - 1985
Herb Kohl, Wisconson - 1989
Tom Harkin, Iowa - 1985


Joe Leiberman, Connecticut - 1989


Richard Shelby, Alabama - 1987
Ted Stevens, Alaska - 1968
John MaCain, Arizona - 1987
Chuck Grassley, Iowa - 1981
Pete Domenici, New Mexico -1973
Arlin Spector, Pennsylvania - 1981
Orrin Hatch, Utah - 1977

These are no longer servants of the people, instead they live to serve themselves. The hunger for re-election is what drives them, and the entrenched nature of their positions is what guides them as to how to vote, introduce bills, and kill the ones that don't placate their lobbyists.
It's an insidious cycle, of which they freely take part, and one that does a larger disservice to the good of our country that is past the point of measurement.

There is a crisis of corruption that permeates the highest levels of our government. You need look no further than recent scandalous activities such as that which bought down Ted Stevens, the longest active serving senator, Jefferson "Cold-cash" Clinton, or the broader corruption regarding Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which involved Chris Dodd and Chuck "U" Schumer, among others, forcing these entities to dole out loans to people totally unqualified , but who would tend to vote democratic in a subtle form of quid-pro-quo. Then there is Robert Byrd, who has, in his state, umpteen parks, civic centers, and road projects named for him, all due to his powerful seniority and adeptness at acquiring needless pork-barrel spending.

The purpose of the House of Representatives, as our founders created it, is to be the "citizen's legislature", where, every two years, the elected officials would have to return to their constituents, listen to them, explain how they would address the issues brought to them, and return to Washington as the citizens' voice in government. The current limitless set-up is structured in such a way that the representitive's only desire is to continue their career indefinitely, doing what is told to them by their senior reps, and accumulating re-election monies from outside influences and lobbyists.

The same can be said for the Senate, only it is amplified to a degree where most can be bought for the right price, and votes are cast not for the common good, but for the benefit of the influential few.

Whole ideological agendas are rammed through both houses, agendas built on differing ideas of how they believe society should be controlled and built on blocks of money derived from the highest bidders, with no interest in the health of the country. They are driven by a few powerful entities with deep pockets and selfish agendas, sustained by a symbiotic relationship with our representatives whose only concern is the next re-election.

It's a sickening, depressing culture which needs a complete overhaul for the country to survive in a noble sense.

Term limits are the easiest, surest way of putting the government out of this insipid way of conducting legislative affairs, and would be beneficial in many ways:

* The institutions would be almost instantly changed to a "citizens legislature".

* Lobbiests and special interests would have little effect on the way in which candidates vote.

* It would introduce new ideas, a more "common sense" way of thinking.

* It would do more for campaign finance reform than any misguided bill that could ever be enacted by entrenched politicians.

* Staff positions would no longer carry such powerful entitlements, and they would not be so succeptable to the lure of power and stature.

* Competition among candidates would be of a more substantive nature, debating more important issues than negative fringe issues.

* Incumbants would no longer have a substantial advantage over newcomers, and would be forced to run on their record as opposed to smearing an unknown candidate.

* Term limits would effectively disinfect the offices of both the Senate and the House, by rewarding committee chairs based on merit and not seniority.

A Constitutional amendment would need to be ratified, limiting the terms of Representatives to perhaps 3 terms (6 years) and 2 terms for the Senate (8 years).

This would help to erase the stranglehold that seniority has on committee positions, introducing fresh faces and new ideas passed on by the very people these candidates are meant to represent. Both State and National "party bosses" would be marginalized, their power diminished as spectators by the ineffectiveness of their positions, eradicating their ability to make or brake a person's political future.

The political structure of amassing power, and leveraging it between a few tainted politicians, is fast becoming our country's biggest threat. Something needs to be done to change this. And no "campaign finance" law will ever do the job.

It's up to us to make it work.


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Comments (28)

Interesting article and a v... (Below threshold)

Interesting article and a valid point on the entrenched nature of Senators. Why not make a Senate term four years and limit them to two terms like the President? That would be wonderful indeed...small point: you have Tom Harkin in the Republican camp...he is most definitely NOT a Republican. Cheers!

Orrin Hatch is a Republican... (Below threshold)

Orrin Hatch is a Republican. Also an addition to the Republicans: Richard Lugar of Indiana 1976

There are 2 ways this could... (Below threshold)
Billll Author Profile Page:

There are 2 ways this could happen. 1) The congress could vote such an amendment by a 75% majority in both houses, or (I believe) 2/3 (or is it 3/4?) of the states could pass legislation favoring such an amendment.
In case 1, it seems unlikely that the foxes will voluntarily leave the hen house, even if the lot of them are grandfathered in.
In case 2, the question would almost certainly have to be put on 30-odd state ballots by popular petition. I'm not sure the requisite number of states permit this, and you may rest assured that the foxes will fight tooth and nail to keep the hen house.

It's a marvelous idea, though.

I used to be against term l... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

I used to be against term limits. We're a country of grown-ups, I thought. We should be able to choose who we want.

No longer. We need term limits. These political parasites will not get off the gov't teat willingly (just like the public in general).

5 two year terms for the House, 3 six year terms for the Senate. After their time is up, they have to wait at least one term before running again. If they do get elected again after being out, they lose all seniority. They all start at the bottom.

Bottom line: too much power... (Below threshold)

Bottom line: too much power in Washington. But the American electorate is to apathetic to do anything about it. Expect more of the same.

Mike,Thanks for th... (Below threshold)


Thanks for the keen observation.

Never blog after taking a muscle relaxer.


Billll,Option #1 r... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:


Option #1 requires a two thirds majority in both houses of Congress, then ratification by three fourths of the states.

Obviously, Congress will never act to limit their terms. They could easily do so voluntarily by retiring after x years in office. That's a dead end.

Option #2 is for two thirds of the state legislatures voting to call a constitutional convention, then having amendments ratified by three fourths of the states.

Probably more doable, but still highly unlikely. How many states currently have term limit amendments to their constitution? enacting them at the national level would create a groundswell to do the same at the state and local levels. Politicians aren't going to put themselves out of work.

And God only knows what kind of nuttiness might be proposed at a constitutional convention.

Like Jason said, we're stuck with the system we've got. Too many people with too much interest in maintaining the status quo.

It would be wonderful to un... (Below threshold)

It would be wonderful to unplug the respiration machines on most of these senators. It is said that we don't want old presidents, and the recent election seems to confirm that. But how do we ever get rid of the old politicians who have roosted in Washington?
I would be very happy to see a constitutional amendment setting term limits like the Republicans tried to do in 1994. That was the only promise that they made in the Contract with America that they couldn't deliver on.
There's got to be some way to get these old, decrepit cars off the road.
Maybe we could lend these camera addicts to England where they could join the house of Lords. There, instead of a hair transplant, they could wear wigs.

One contrarian view point:<... (Below threshold)

One contrarian view point:

Would you rather see an intern or fourth year medical student as your doctor or someone with 30 years experience?

18 years is far too long in... (Below threshold)

18 years is far too long in the senate. I say 12 years total time in either body, then out. No longer eligible for ANY representative body outside your home state. South Dakota already has term limits. It's a big corruption limiter.

Epador, I'd rather see an i... (Below threshold)

Epador, I'd rather see an intern than a octogenarian that just had 3 quick belts of scotch and missed a bridge on his way to work.

Would you rather see an ... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Would you rather see an intern or fourth year medical student as your doctor or someone with 30 years experience?

If the 30 year old doctor is too busy with his stock market accounts and golf game to care more than give a cursory glance at a chart, jot a quick perscription and charge $300 for the service, then the former please.

Les's limits sound about ri... (Below threshold)

Les's limits sound about right to me, yes it is probably still to much time but we really do need caps of some sort. As someone else mentioned I used to think we were grown up enough to not need them but I was wrong. 28 years (10 house and potentially another 18 in the senate though technically not necessarily in that order) is more then enough for someone to have the 'impact' on public policy they may desire.

I agree with 90 percent of ... (Below threshold)

I agree with 90 percent of this post (maybe more)- but not this:
"I've always wondered why the President is the only elected official from the "big three" to have to operate under the rule of term limits. While I believe this to be the correct rule to follow, none of the congressional members have to abide by the same restriction."

I disagree. It's not the correct rule. Here's why I say that. It's a new rule (relatively speaking) and it was a game changer that completely offset the balance of power.

The founding fathers envisioned government something like a three legged stool. Each leg is a separate branch of the government with checks and balances between the three branches of government.
Until the time of FDR, those three branches were evenly balanced, because constitutionally there were NO term limits for either the legislative or the executive branch (nor the judicial, for that matter). However, the legislative branch cut several inches off the leg of the executive branch, unbalancing the stool.

The legislative branch did this when they imposed term limits on the executive branch for the first time in 150 years, while refusing them for themselves. IN so doing, they acted towards furthering their own power while limiting the executive branch, and unbalancing that three legged stool of checks and balances. I think we need to return the original balance to the three legged stool by either restoring the original equality of no term limits for any branch, or by cutting off the legislative branch so it is on equal footing with the executive. I prefer term limits for everybody.

The problem isn't with thos... (Below threshold)

The problem isn't with those in government, the problem is the idiots that keep reelecting them. Term limits are just one more instance of using government to keep peoples stupidity from biting them in the ass and as such I'm against it.

Excellent post Shawn. The ... (Below threshold)

Excellent post Shawn. The problem with longevity is the good old boys club it creates. Fat cats sitting with their feet on top of the desk enjoying the benefits of their years on the job. Term limits provides fresh blood and ideas and is necessary to any organization to keep it alive and vital.

I've always wondered why... (Below threshold)

I've always wondered why the President is the only elected official from the "big three" to have to operate under the rule of term limits.

Because in 1945-50, everyone was scared of getting another FDR. I think it's almost impossible to overstate the control that Roosevelt had over the United States during his first two terms in office. From 1932 to 1940, Roosevelt was effectively king of the United States. There was no meaningful opposition to any of his policy initiatives. The only exception to that is his Court-packing plan -- and even that turned out to be a victory, as the Supreme Court surrendered to him just afterward. He fundamentally changed US economic policy. He fundamentally changed US foreign policy. He fundamentally changed the US judiciary. And no one could do a damn thing to stop him. It was the USA's first encounter with a man of that level of influence and charisma -- a level that no senator or congressman, no matter how senior, can ever possibly rival. Term-limiting the presidency vastly reduced the risk that another, less scrupulous man might acquire the same level of power and use it -- well, like Chavez is using his power in Venezuela.

Term limits on legislators ... a grand idea, I think, but if I was a betting man, I'd bet that if you took a poll, better than half of voters would say "why bother, they'll just find a way around it." We no longer trust our politicians to follow the law, or even the Constitution. And the recent kerfuffle over the Snob's birth certificate had one unpleasant result: a court has ruled that there is no effective way to enforce the "natural born citizen" rule concerning the presidency. If that rule can't be enforced, then how can any eligibility rule for any elected federal office be enforced? Who has standing to enforce them?

What a terrific idea. Unfor... (Below threshold)

What a terrific idea. Unfortunately, Congress will have to vote on it. Wanna bet on the outcome?

"It would be wonderful to u... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

"It would be wonderful to unplug the respiration machines on most of these senators." - nice one, Myronhalo!

Totally agree on term limits. I've been for them for two decades. George Will's early 90s book "Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy" (the only Will book with an honored place in my library) is a must-read for anyone interested in this vital issue.

This is why the 17th Amendm... (Below threshold)

This is why the 17th Amendment needs to be repealed. If the state governments regained the authority to appoint their Senators as they saw fit, then the term limits wouldn't be necessary.

Senators were supposed to be representatives of the states, just as the Representatives represent the people. These are the two groups who ceded power in order to create the federal government. It provided balance.

But for the past century, it has been out of balance. Without the voice of the states in the legislature to keep a check on federal power, the federal government has steadily grown in size and power, and has usurped many powers that, per the 10th Amendment, rightly belong to the states.

It's high time the state governments had a voice in the running of this country, again.

Term limits for the Congres... (Below threshold)

Term limits for the Congress Critters were tried in the 90s by some states, but the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. This suit was filed by some of the deadwood listed above. They wanted to protect their jobs and perks.

If we could impose term lim... (Below threshold)

If we could impose term limits on the legislative branch of government, I believe we would solve a large percentage of problems facing our country. We should also take away the retirement perks, lifetime health care, etc.
I would favor a two term mandatory limit. Rather than grant the unbelievably lucrative retirement they currently enjoy, muster them out of office with a one time gratuity of $250K for a single term and $500K for 2 terms.
Make it tax free since putting one's life on hold for one or two terms is truly a sacrifice.
Then, when they leave, they become normal citizens again and must live with the laws and regs they've created.

It's a nitpick, I know... b... (Below threshold)

It's a nitpick, I know... but 2 terms in the Senate is 12 years... not 8.

Other than that, I whole heartedly agree.

"This is why the 17th Am... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"This is why the 17th Amendment needs to be repealed."

Absolutely. Unfortunately, how many people even remember that the states used to appoint their Senators?

Senators that worked for the power of the individual states instead of for the power of the Federal Gov't would go a long way in reigning in runaway gov't.

"It's a nitpick, I know... ... (Below threshold)

"It's a nitpick, I know... but 2 terms in the Senate is 12 years... not 8.

Other than that, I whole heartedly agree."

My point is to MAKE it 8 years.


Another huge point that has... (Below threshold)

Another huge point that has been overlooked is that not only are Congress people motivated to not have any type of term limits but also states!

States are heavily invested in incumbacy, the more senior your Senators and Congressional delegation the more pork gets brought home for roads and other things that make the local, state politicians look good and get them re-elected.

Our Founding Fathers never intended for political office to become a career, and up until the 1950's the turn-over rate in the HoR was near 50%, yet today it has become like any other job and not the public service it was intended to be.

It would take a HUGE groundswell of public outcry to make something like this happen, but as we've learned over the last decade or so the American public is highly apathetic and distrustful of government so the likelyhood of this happening is about the same as a snowball's chance of surviving in hell

My proposal is that they be... (Below threshold)
Frank Logan:

My proposal is that they be limited to ONE TERM & one term only. Make the length of the term, whatever. That way, they never have to run for re-election even once. Cuts out the special interest for the most part.

Term limits look good on th... (Below threshold)

Term limits look good on the surface, but if you look at what has happened in states with term limit like my State of Oklahoma, they are not good. Power and influence has moved now to the urban areas of the state, while the rural areas are more and more being left out(road money, police money, etc). Before term limits there was a type of equality between the rural areas and the urban areas, because the rural areas had a voice in their long term representatives and senators. Seniority equates to leadership positions and committee chairs.






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