Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 10, 2009

THAT '90S SHOW.... About a month after the 2008 elections, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the #3 person in the House Republican leadership, wrote an op-ed on the GOP's policy agenda. As Pence saw it, near the top of the Republicans' list should be "welfare reform" and "school vouchers."

Around the same time, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said the party needs to rally in support of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Soon after, during Eric Holder's confirmation process, congressional Republicans focused their energies on Elian Gonzales and Marc Rich.

The next thing you'll be telling me is that Senate Republicans are talking up the idea of term limits again. Oh wait.

A Republican senator on Tuesday introduced a Constitutional amendment that would mandate term limits for all federal lawmakers.

Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) amendment would limit House members to three terms and senators to two terms. Every lawmaker then could serve no longer than six years in Congress. [...]

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) cosponsored the bill.

Republicans leaders probably aren't inclined to take my advice, but I have a suggestion anyway. Democrats like to characterize the GOP as a party with no ideas. When Republicans respond by rehashing ridiculous proposals from 15 years ago, it doesn't help.

As for the substance of DeMint's old idea, we already have term limits -- they're called "elections."

Steve Benen 2:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

"Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) amendment would limit House members to three terms and senators to two terms. Every lawmaker then could serve no longer than six years in Congress. [...]"

Two terms of office for a Senator would be 12 years...

Posted by: Herbie on November 10, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

If a senator serves for two terms, that TWELVE YEAR. Idiots.

Posted by: Estamm on November 10, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, repiglicans want term limits. Then the lobbyists could just write all of the legislation and have their lackeys in the repiglican party pass it on...Oh wait, that is what happened during the bushie years /snark...Term limits in colorado guaranteed that those with the most expertise on issues are the corporate lobbyists, not the legislators who need most of their allotted terms just to get up to speed on issues. Then they are termed out and the lobbyists get started on the new batch of freshman lawmakers. Great for lobbyists, bad for citizen control.

Posted by: richard wang on November 10, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK
.Term limits in colorado guaranteed that those with the most expertise on issues are the corporate lobbyists, not the legislators who need most of their allotted terms just to get up to speed on issues. Then they are termed out and the lobbyists get started on the new batch of freshman lawmakers. Great for lobbyists, bad for citizen control.

Precisely what occurred in Michigan too. Though it did have its desired effect in uprooting many long-time Dems whose seats have been repug ever since.

Posted by: G.Kerby on November 10, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

amazing that all these great ideas pop up AFTER the goopers are out of power and can't do anything about them. if they are so bloody wonderful, why didn't they act on these ideas when they were in charge?
of course, i'm sure that great ideas like term limits wouldn't apply to current office holders, right?

Posted by: mellowjohn on November 10, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'd much rather see campaign finance reform: limits on amts spent, fairness in advertising time, cleaning up the negativity, no corporate money. That would hopefully make the legislators accountable to the people for a change. Heck we might even get single payer health care, better environmental laws, etc.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on November 10, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

What jack-holes.
Maybe they could come up with a flag burning amendment too, and don't forget the all important prayer in public schools. Maybe Ford could start making Pintos again. Good times. Good times. Oh yeah bring back Good Times. DY NO MITE!!!!

Posted by: Patrick on November 10, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Idiotology.

It's as if it's cool to be an idiot these days, especially in the GOP.

How about a flag-burning ammendment? (make that a tea-bagging, flag desecration one)

How about a ban on global warming?

School prayer?

The list goes on.

Idiotology 101

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 10, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

There are issues with the advantage that incumbents have in elections, but if you get rid of the experienced Senators and Representatives there will be a serious brain drain issue. It takes a while for a newly elected official to get their bearings. Also, if they can't make a career out of holding office, whoever we will elect will be (even more) biased toward whoever has the money, because they will be looking for a job after their term limit forces them out. Ugh.

Posted by: Jane on November 10, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

this stuff does add a dimension to the Repugnant Party: "party of no -- and bozo"

Posted by: neill on November 10, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

As for the substance of DeMint's old idea, we already have term limits -- they're called "elections."

Steve, this time you bashed before you thunk.

Congressional term limits would be a WAY more effective method to minimizing power-grab, and invoking the better side of our law-makers.

Without limits, you get career clowns like Lieberman and McCain and (to some extent) Kerry.

Posted by: JJC on November 10, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, I'm in favor of term limits no matter which party is proposing them. 12 years and they're out.

Posted by: Run Up The Score on November 10, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I actually think term limits are a good thing. These guys burrow in and never let go. New ideas come with new people as well as new ways. There are plenty of qualified people out there to represent us in our districts and states. Although I think I would up it to possibly 5 and 3 terms respectively. More lenient on the Congress term.

I like Steve a ton, but not all ideas from the past or the party of no are bad ideas. I think this one is a good one.

Posted by: craig on November 10, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a Democrat. But term limits is not a "ridiculous idea". It's a fair idea that has its merits and costs.

Posted by: Dave on November 10, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK
I like Steve a ton, but not all ideas from the past or the party of no are bad ideas. I think this one is a good one.
See the posts by me and Richard above. We've experienced the effects of this 1st-hand, and no, it's NOT a good idea.

Posted by: G.Kerby on November 10, 2009 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't someone call the GOPpers on this one now? How many of the GOP reps and sens were elected in 1994, when term limits (even self-imposed) were part of the Contract on America? (Yes, I meant "on") Why don't they honor the promise they made to the people of their districts to only serve a set number of terms, then leave Congress? Why doesn't the DNC run ads in the home districts of those GOPpers, pointing out the gap between their rhetoric and their reality?

Posted by: Dan on November 10, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Steve writes: "...we already have term limits -- they're called 'elections'".

There is a problem with this response, and that is that while only one state votes for a Senator (or Representative), their actions affect everyone in all the states. A Senator can be truly bad for the country as a whole, and still be a net positive for the state that elects him (because of his skill in bringing home the bacon). So there is no incentive for his constituents to vote him out.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on November 10, 2009 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

When Republicans respond by rehashing ridiculous proposals from 15 years ago, it doesn't help.

Especially since term limits was one of the several planks of the GOP Contract On America that they didn't bother to enact.

Posted by: Gregory on November 10, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

You can add Missouri to the list of states where term limits have effectively destroyed the state government. We in the higher education field are certainly hard hit when many of our state legislators neither have nor appreciate the value of education. Not to mention all the other problems already listed by commenters above.

Posted by: Ian on November 10, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

If term limits are such a great concept then let us just make this rule. No one can serve more than two terms of public office, period. Be it school board, county sheriff, legislature, whatever, two terms is all you get.

No one thinks that would be a good idea. California term limits was but one of several proposals that destroyed the State.

Rather than term limits we need to make functional changes in the way we elect people to office. That would have a far greater impact on government and our lives.

Posted by: Stuart Shiffman on November 10, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, there may merit in term limits — I would certainly like to see debate on the idea rather than have it dismissed out-of-hand.

You can be sure it will go nowhere, however.

No one in congress is going to vote for it. Not the Repugs, not the Dems — why would they?

Vote themselves off Easy Street?...right.

Posted by: GollyGee on November 10, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Of COURSE the Republicans are the party of ideas.

BAD ideas.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 10, 2009 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Stuart Shiffman, your conclusion could well be right, but your logic is wrong (ad absurdum, straw man.)

If you read the posts above yours, you'll see some people do indeed think limiting terms is a good idea.

What changes in the way we elect people would you like to see?

Posted by: GollyGee on November 10, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, really a great idea. Then no one in congress would learn enough about the process of governing to ever become effective. Great idea, idiots !

Posted by: rbe1 on November 10, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

rb1, works okay for presidents.

(I bet you didn't know they have a term limit, you smart cookie you.)

Posted by: GollyGee on November 10, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans only claim to be for term limits when they want to get back in power. (It appeals to Libertarians) Once elected they remember that their constituents have a right to re-elect them if they like the job they are doing. It's yet another hypocritical ploy to regain power.

I am now calling them the "Republican't" party. They don't believe the government can do anything right, but want to run it, so they can prove it.

Posted by: Atlliberal on November 10, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits really just haven't work well in CA. The main problem is that, while they do encourage turnover, they also force a loss of institutional memory which has its own costs.

And if you know you won't have a long-term working relationship with someone, where's your incentive to compromise or work well with them? It's not like you'll have much chance of needing someone's vote in the future if they're guaranteed to be term-limited out.

But mostly, by removing the long-term knowledge from the members of the legislative bodies, lobbyists end up relatively more powerful -- they're not term limited, after all, and have much more time to learn how to play the games.

Posted by: Jon on November 10, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I've not really got a horse in this race as I don't know much about the effects of term limits.

What I do know is that proponents of term limits in this comment thread have been nothing but smug and glib and haven't put forth anything beyond their say so that term limits are a good thing. (See GollyGee at 4:06 PM for a prime example.)

Opponents, however, have put forth some compelling arguments, such as richard wang and Jane.

Posted by: doubtful on November 10, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

@gollygee: I didn't think the reductio ad absurdum was a fallacy.

@Darryl McCullough: How would that be any different if those senators were limited to two terms each?

Posted by: Toad on November 10, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

That's really sophomoric tag line there, Benen. Elections are not some panacea that cures all political disorders. I guess you forgot that we had an election in 2000, how did that work out for the majority of Americans?

And I'm not naively suggesting that term limits are a silver bullet either. Elections, term limits, the ability to recall elected members of Congress, strict limits on the role of money in elections, laws to eliminate or mitigate gerrymandering are all tools in the arsenal of Democracy.

All of these tools are to prevent or limit an entrenched oligarchy from forming. Waiving one's hands and bleating "Elections!" solves nothing or haven't you been awake for the last eight years?

What a tool.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on November 10, 2009 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Especially since term limits was one of the several planks of the GOP Contract On America that they didn't bother to enact.

Ah, but you've forgotten the genius of the Contract On America -- they explicitly didn't promise to enact any of that stuff, only to introduce it. The level of dishonesty Gingrich put into it was truly spectacular.

Posted by: Redshift on November 10, 2009 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

The recent characterizations of the Republican Party -- the party of no, the party without ideas, etc -- are fair, if not even generous to Republicans.

At the same time, though, there are some strong arguments in favor of term limits. In fact, it is the looming re-election campaign that keeps legislators tied to donors/lobbyists. Legislators need to keep the big money happy so that they can make sure they will get the campaign contributions the next time they run. With term limits, and hence no upcoming re-election, legislators would have more freedom to ignore the demands of big money and do their duty as public servants.

Congressional term limits has enough potential towards lessening the impact of money in our politics that the idea at least warrants discussion on its merits.

Posted by: Andrew on November 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kind of funny how the recurring term limits theme ties into today's teabagging mythos despite predating it by so many years. The idea of citizen-legislators who spend a few years in Congress, then go back to their law offices, stores, medical practices and farms, is a powerful part of the story of our fledgling nation. The idea, of course, was that we would have a highly engaged citizenry that would share and take turns at the active role of governing, but also that people who spend only a limited time in the halls of power are less likely to become an entrenched ruling class.

Well, both of those ideas still have power and attraction and legitimacy, but like so many of the grossly sentimental "back to our roots" campaigns of the right (most definitely including libertarians), they fail to account for our massively more complex and interdependent society nowadays. The loss of institutional memory, as some above aptly put it, is significantly more damaging in our technologically advanced country of 300 million plus than it was in a largely agrarian 13-state operation. (And honestly, I think public financing of campaigns could accomplish much of what people are trying to do through term limits -- at least in the area of removing large monetary incentives to hold onto one's seat and parlay it into a post-legislative lobbying/think tank/speaker circuit cash festival -- while making it possible for some citizen-endorsed legislation to actually get through both fucking houses of Congress.)

Posted by: shortstop on November 10, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Actually as a progressive voter, I'm really in favor of term limits. Highly in favor of it w/ elections. In that if the senator or representative have been elected a few times, they can not longer run. I think fresh ideas and freshman congressmen/woman would be a highly welcomed change.

Posted by: limu on November 10, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

"we already have term limits -- they're called 'elections'."

Yep.

It's no coincidence that "throw all the bums out" or "vote out all the incumbents" is only in vogue when the Democrats are in the Majority.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 10, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

For the past six years I've lived in Mexico, where terms limits are the rule from the presidential level on down to mayors and city councilpersons. The most obvious effect of term limits here is to ensure that, once elected, officials quickly come to realize that, unless they aspire to a higher office, they no longer need to pay the slightest bit of attention to the people who elected them. Instead, they're free to spend the remainder of their terms lining their pockets or doing the bidding of the bosses of their political parties (the bosses being the only ones who can dole out further political capital)or lobbyists. In addition, each election brings in a whole new crew of political novices who don't know their asses from their elbows. And if the system actually manages to cough up anyone with any political competence, he either gets booted to the curb when the next election rolls around, or spends most of his time jockeying for a position on the next rung up. In short, term limits suck.

Posted by: wheresthebeef on November 10, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits is one of those ideas that seems great in theory, but it stinks in practice. We have term limits here in California. Notice how well our legislature works? Me neither.

Although we do get fresh faces we're damned short of fresh ideas. When the fresh faces are in front of the same doctrinaire Republican or Democratic brains then the results never change.

Then there's the problem that the institutional memory of the legislature resides not with long-serving legislators, it resides instead with the lobbyists and the legislative staffs - neither of whom are term-limited. Again, we may get fresh faces in the chambers it's just that they're informed and shaped by the same people who informed and shaped their predecessors.

Any notion of reforming the system through term limits, or public financing of elections, or stricter rules on lobbying, etc., overlooks the fact that our Congress has become a tool to advantage the few to the detriment of everyone else because they like it that way. No one is holding a gun to their heads. They could this very second rise up and tell the lobbyists, the corporate cronies, and the influence peddlers to fuck off and let them do the people's business for the people. They don't and they won't because the status quo enables them (And their families and friends) to lead lives beyond our dreams of envy. They do it in complete safety because whether you're voting for a Democrat or a Republican you're voting to keep things exactly the way they are.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on November 10, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits are terrible. Being a legislator is an easy job to do badly, but an extremely diffcult one to do well. You have to learn a fair amount about a large number of very complicated issues, and on top of that you need lots of practice at horsetrading and dealing with difficult people in general. Six years isn't nearly enough time for most people to get good at that. Giving the entire House just six years is setting them up to fail, over and over again.

Who is usually considered the most effective legislator of the last few decades? Ted Kennedy. He didn't really hit his stride until his 3rd or 4th term, after he had spent years learning the issues and learning how to deal with the other senators.

Posted by: sacman701 on November 10, 2009 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Our experience in Californis is just as richard wang described in Colorado. It has reduced the expertise and effectiveness of our legislators, made scrambling for other offices a necessity for those in elected public service, and removed really intelligent and concerned people way before their service to the state should have been ended.

There is now no accountability for really stupid legislative acts like blocking the budget (which our esteemed electorate has decided needs a 2/3 vote).

Term limits here have been an unmitigated disaster.

Posted by: Cal Gal on November 10, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Noone ever seems to make the limit a limit on consecutive terms. Say, five terms for Representative (20 years) and three terms (18 years) for Senator? An incumbent would have to sit out one election cycle for the House before running again; a Senator would have to wait for the next senatorial campaign in his/her state (minimum of two years).
That would maintain continuity and still allow for a regular infusion of fresh blood. This idea is, of course, theoretical and would probably never work this simply in practice, but I wonder that I've never seen it proposed.
It could also be applied to the Presidency; no more than two consecutive terms. If the voters want to re-elect a previous incumbent after that, why not?

Posted by: Doug on November 10, 2009 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits aren't the craziest idea out there, but, as has been pointed out, they just don't work like you think they will. Balanced budget amendment? Oh gawd. At this point, most of their rhetoric is about base-energizing and judging from it, it appears they think their base is particularly stupid.

Posted by: jonas on November 10, 2009 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

It is just funny to me how little this comes up whenever Republicans are actually in power. They would have had a pretty good shot at this one four-six years ago, when they had both houses and the presidency.

Odd they that didn't think about it then.

Posted by: Fides on November 10, 2009 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Excuse me. You create your opportunities by asking for them. Help me! There is an urgent need for sites: Currency trading for beginners. I found only this - free currency trading compete account. Globe is uncertain to printing gcsc depreciation and smoking economies and short transparency sure banks where manipulation much less than scottish is british to lose, currency trading. Indicators and operations should encounter this trading, currency trading. :confused: Thanks in advance. Lorretta from Ethiopia.

Posted by: Lorretta on February 12, 2010 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK
Post a comment









Remember personal info?










 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly