Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Francis Rooney have performed a great public service by introducing a constitutional amendment to impose Term Limits on Congress. This was a major issue raised by President Trump in 2016, and polling shows overwhelming support from the American people.
There can be no doubt that term limits are needed.
The authors of the Constitution never expected membership in Congress to become a lifetime career, and for many years that assumption was correct. The Congressional Research Service concluded that “most lawmakers in the 18th and early 19th centuries can be characterized as ‘citizen legislators,’ holding full-time non-political employment and serving in Congress on a part-time basis for a short number of years.”
Today, unfortunately most Senators and Representatives stay as long as they can be reelected, or until they have become so powerful that a lobbying firm makes them a generous offer.
The longer Congressmen stay, the more they adopt the Washington point of view – that Big Government is good, that government should provide special advantages for special interests, and that the greatest sins are to reduce government spending and to provide equal treatment for all.
Term limits would put an end to the professional congressman who serves for decades. It would break up the networks of long-serving Congressmen and lobbyists.
Term limits alone will not turn a professional legislature into a citizen legislature. Big salaries, generous health and retirement benefits, year-long sessions, and large staffs are among the other issues that must be addressed. However, without term limits it is unlikely we will ever return to the citizen legislature that was a foundation of the government established by the Founders.
Peter J. Thomas
Chairman, The Conservative Caucus