Many reformers are concerned that the incumbency advantage legislators enjoy creates, in effect, lifetime tenure, which serves as a roadblock to change and encourages ethics abuses. In recent years, the public has accorded Congress the lowest approval ratings ever.
To increase turnover among legislators, reformers have proposed term limits that generally restrict representatives to 6 or 12 consecutive years in office.
The movement to limit the terms of legislators spread rapidly across the country. Within a few years, 23 states enacted term limitations for members of their state legislatures. In 1994, House Republicans made term limits for Congress part of their Contract for America.
Yet changing the terms of members of Congress is difficult to do; many members of Congress have fought term limits fiercely.
Opponents of term limits object to the loss of experienced legislators who know the issues and the legislative process. They also argue that the American people should be able to vote for whomever they please, including the incumbent. In addition, they argue that there is plenty of new blood in the legislature: at the beginning of the 114th Congress (in 2015), most members of the House and Senate had served fewer than 10 years in Congress. Moreover, changes in the party makeup of the House appear to reflect changes in voters' preferences on public policy. Congress seems to be responsive to public opinion.
Proponents of term limits suffered two setbacks in 1995 when Congress failed to pass a constitutional amendment on term limits (it also failed in 1997) and when the Supreme Court, in U.S. Term Limits, inc. et al. v. Thornton et al., decided that state-imposed term limits on members of Congress were unconstitutional.
Here is the dilemma: many Americans support a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress. At the same time, most voters are comfortable with their own representatives and senators and appear content to reelect them again and again.
Questions to consider:
a. What do you think? Should we pass a constitutional amendment creating term limits on members of Congress? If so, what should those limits be?
Answer the question above in the comments, then complete the assignment below.
1. Read this article.
2. Respond to the following with a 500 word answer:
2a. The author of this piece is unabashedly opposed to term limits. Using the information from the article and your own research on the subject, refute the argument presented in the article. In other words, argue in favor of term limits, regardless of your personal stance.
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