Term Limits and Unintended Consequences

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We want to hand off a better world to our Grandchildren.  To me this includes electing and appointing government officials who are oriented to serving America and Americans as a whole rather than catering to special interest groups.

I have written on the virtues of Term Limits in our local paper before:


Freshman congressmen (and women) arrive in Washington DC with the best intentions, but if they stay long enough they get assimilated into the collective.  I have maintained that term limits would help them remember : 1) where they came from, and 2) that they will be returning.  My belief is they would pass laws that are more understandable, more realistic, and more beneficial to the common interest (versus special interests).  If they were not so focused on getting re-elected, they might have the courage to actually solve some problems.

A piece in the June 22, 2011 Wall Street Journal, “Plan to Ease Way for Unions” got me thinking.  Per the Journal, “The National Labor Relations Board Tuesday proposed the most sweeping changes to the federal rules governing union organizing elections since 1947… Unions failed during the years when Democrats had control of Congress to win passage of a remake of union organizing rules known as the Employee Free Choice Act.  Since Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, union leaders have stepped up pressure on the Obama administration to use its rule-making powers to achieve some of the same goals as the EFCA.”  In other words, union leadership (a special interest group) has found a way to circumvent the Congress that you and I elected (and theoretically a public interest group).

I’m a conservative moderate, and am troubled by “sweeping changes” that appear to be going in the wrong direction, but that’s not the point.  I could cite similar examples from the Bush administration that would be equally troubling to liberal-oriented people.

Here’s the point:  If Term Limits were enacted, would the checks and balances of power (Administrative versus Legislative) sway too far to the Administrative branch of government?  The relatively long tenure of Congress (compared to the Presidency) tends to add a certain amount of inertia (consistency) to our laws.  If congress had a higher turnover rate due to term limits, would it be weakened by the relatively frequent restructuring and shuffling generated?  Rather than fewer, simpler, more effective laws that benefit the common interest, would we get even more complex laws crafted by lobbyists and full of loopholes that benefit special interests?  Or would we get vague laws that the Administrative branch could interpret any way they wanted, again catering to their constituency rather than America and Americans as a whole?

My Proposal

I’d like to propose one six-year term for all elected federal positions; Representatives, Senators, and President, and 18-year terms for Federal and Supreme Court Justices.   I believe this would give them enough time to learn their jobs and be affective without becoming too immersed in Washington DC.  It would also enable Representatives to concentrate on legislation rather than continually running for office.  However, as discussed above, I’m concerned this would give lobbyists and the Administration too much power with each administration making radical changes.  Therefore I propose the following:

  • President- One six-year term; Add a popular “Vote of Confidence” at three years requiring a 60% super-majority “No Confidence” vote to trigger a re-election in the fourth year rather than the the sixth year.
  • Senators- Up to two full terms, or 12 years.
  •  Representatives- Up to five full terms or 10 years.
  • Federal and Supreme Court Justices- 18 year terms

I know there are some excellent students of history and politics with opinions on this, would very much like to hear from you

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