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From the Midway:Would term limits work for Congress?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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A few weeks ago I wrote a column about my experience at the Iowa Democratic Caucus in South O'Brien County. There was one issue that I mentioned in that column that I would like to explore a little further. The column was running quite long so I did not have a chance then to give this issue its full attention.

Towards the end of the evening, during our final bit of businesses there was a discussion and adoption of resolutions. During this part of the Caucus, the members of the Caucus discussed (sometime heatedly) issues that they wanted to see the Iowa Democratic Party adopt, such as opposition to the war and term limits on Congressmen and Senators just to name a few.

When the idea for a resolution of term limits for Congressmen and Senators came up for discussion, the thought popped into my head of 'why in the world do Congressmen and Senators need term limits.' Well the general consensus was that too many Congressmen and Senators were making careers in the legislature and that we the people had to end this.

Some of the arguments for term limits were that it would build a "citizen" Congress vs. career politicians, break ties to special interests group and lobbyists, destroy seniority, enhance meritocracy and introduce fresh thinking and new ideas.

After hearing this I spoke up and said "I understand having a term limit for a president, any president has a lot of power and needs to be kept in check. But, in my opinion, if a Congressman or Senator is not living up to the people they represent or is a crook, we the people should vote the bums out of office. It's our job as citizens to do just that."

After kicking this issue around for a little while I came up with answers of why people feel that we need limits. The real problem is the lack of choices that we have running for office. It is always the same type of people running for these offices.

When was the last time we had a farmer, teacher, factory worker or a newspaper writer in Congress. When there is nobody that steps up to the plate, we get the same old, same old. And until we get a new type of politician, it won't matter how long they're in office. The problems that we face today won't get solved regardless of whether or not we have term limits.

Many people may think that you need a law degree or to have run a business to be a Congressman or a Senator. No, that's not the case. Here are qualifications for entering Congress:

House -- You must be 25 years of age (when seated, not when elected). You must have been a citizen of the United States for seven years. You must be a resident of the state from which elected and it is customary but not Constitutionally required that a representative live in the district represented.

Senate -- You must be 30 years (when seated, not when elected). You must have been a citizen of the United States for nine years and you must be a resident of the state from which elected.

Instead of term limits, we should have a law that says that anyone who currently holds an office can't run for another office until the term is over. Look at how many people are currently Senator and are running for president. Who are they representing while they are out on the campaign trail. Members of Congress who are busy in campaigns keep their eyes on something other than their jobs.

Members of Congress got elected to do a job and not to put that job on hold when they are trying to get another job. If you or I did that, I think our bosses would tell us to hit the road.

One other idea to consider is that if any citizen holds a public office and when their term is done they will have their job waiting for them when they come back from public service. It works for our military personal and it might give more incentive for regular people to serve.

Mike Leckband
From the Midway