Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why I Vote NO on Congressional Term Limits

As a citizen of the United States of America, I believe in the wisdom of our founders.  I find their approach to the formation of our nation, built first upon a reasoned declaration of independence, followed by a hard fought Constitution outlining the design and powers of a new form of interdependent government.  It is designed to function with a range of human experience and the input of the citizenry.   It's all really a simple, yet brilliant construction.  It even came with a mechanism to allow for its own amending as times change.

One of the most significant in history is the 22nd amendment that established the term limit of 2 terms for any individual in the role of President leading the Executive branch of the government.  Recall if you will that this was in part a reaction to the powers accrued by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the course of his 5 terms through the middle of the 20th century.  And yet the stability that his administration brought to a nation besieged by first an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions and then an escalated international conflict that rose to the level of a second world war was no doubt the very thing--his stabilizing presence--that was most crucial to our victory on both fronts.

I would even argue that today with life expectancies being what they have become, this amendment should be amended up to 3 terms.  But that might also be a little Obama nostalgia syndrome already kicking in....

Today, some people are now arguing for terms limits for members of Congress.  Some fifteen states have even enacted laws doing this very thing for members of their state legislatures. 

And I am here to tell you that I am NOT a fan of this sort of thing.  There is a term limit already built into the process.  It's called an election.    

The function of a government's legislative process is a complicated one.  It benefits from a range of players and those with institutional memory are crucial to the process.  In states with limits, most lawmakers cannot serve more than 8 years.  When the power no longer resides in the elected official, it goes to someone else.  It goes to people with experience and know how to get the job done and those people are the lobbyists and paid staffers.  Suddenly the chief of staff with the most experience becomes a very pricy commodity and she or he--an UNELECTED worker bee--has the REAL POWER.  Their agendas never come to light, never get scrutinized by the public and are not subject to the recall of the vote.  Term limits are a lousy idea.
And here's another reason, term limits are unnecessary.  Lets look at the Senate.  There are 100 Senators who serve for 6 years terms each.  The average tenure in the current senate is 22 years; however only 20% have served that long or longer.  45% are currently serving in the first term!  Nearly half of the Senate are freshmen--is it any wonder that they're so dysfunctional? 

The twelve longest serving Senators by seniority are:

1) Patrick Leahy of Vermont (Democrat) 42 years of wisdom
2) Orin Hatch of Utah (Republican) 40 years
3) Thad Cochran of Mississippi (Republican) 38 years
4) Charles Grassley of Iowa (Republican) 36 years
5) Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (Republican) 34 years
The class of 1986 with 30 years in each:
6) John McCain of Arizona (Republican)
7) Barbara Mikulski of Maryland (Democrat)
8) Harry Reid of Nevada (Democrat)
9) Richard Shelby of Alabama (Republican)
The class of 1992 with 24 years each
10) Barbara Boxer of California (Democrat)
11) Diane Feinstein of California (Democrat)
12) Patty Murray of Washington (Democrat)

Eight of these 12 are up for re-election this November and 3 of them have chosen to retire (thus ending their terms by another viable means).

When you look at who the most outrageously behaved and partisan members of the Senate are--not-with-standing the majority's current leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky listed above--you will discover just how inexperienced they are.  Granted, sometimes I like that, but sometimes it's downright embarrassing and stupid.

My list on this score would include:

Tom Cotton of Arkansas (Republican) with just 2 years of experience
Ted Cruz of Texas (Republican) with 4 years into his first term
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (Democrat) with just 4 years into her tenure
Marco Rubio of Florida (Republican) just completing his first 6 year term

And in the Senate, seniority represents power in terms of committee assignments.  These states have the least. 

With a combined total of 6 years of experience between BOTH Senators:
West Virginia

With 8 years of experience total:

And with just 10 years of combined experience:
North Dakota

The states with the deepest benches are

1) Vermont with 52 years total
2) Alabama with 50 years total
3) California with 48 years total
4) Mississippi with 47 years total
5) Utah with 46 years total
6 & 7) Maryland & Washington with 40 years total each
8 & 9) Iowa & Kentucky with 38 years total each
10 & 11) Arizona and Nevada with 34 years total each

And we can already guarantee that California, Maryland and Nevada will be knocked out of the upper tiers after this November's election, and by the will of the people Vermont, Utah, Washington, Iowa, Kentucky and Arizona are all up for that possibility, too.  I've even contributed some scratch to support such a change in Arizona and Iowa!  The

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