The new influx of freshmen Republican Congressmen in Washington, D.C. has raised an old issue largely relegated to the political back-burner since the mid-1990s: congressional term limits.
In an election year featuring heavy anti-incumbent sentiment, dozens of incoming lawmakers have pledged to limit their congressional terms, an issue that has found particular appeal among certain Tea Party activists.
Yet support for term limits among the Tea Party is hardly universal. “In my personal view, I don’t think there should be term limits,” Penn Tea Party Patriots founder and Graduate School of Education student Dan Chinburg said. Chinburg argued that seniority could be a valuable asset in achieving the Tea Party’s goals.
“I don’t see why they would want to limit themselves,” he said, adding, “I think if you took a poll of the Tea Party, I’d say it’s probably divided.”
The issue was especially popular the last time Republicans swept into office back in 1994. That year, Republicans featured the issue as a key selling point in the Contract with America, a document that listed a series of major Republican campaign promises.
Several of those members that signed the Contract, however, eventually reneged on their promise of term limits. Several signatories are still serving in Congress today.
Mike Fitzpatrick, the former Congressman from suburban Philadelphia who defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy this November, is one of the members committed to limiting his time in Congress, pledging to serve a maximum of six years.
Unfortunately for the policy’s advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that imposing term limits on members of Congress was a violation of Article I of the Constitution. In the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that states could not impose stricter qualifications on members of Congress than those specified in the Constitution.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Democratic student leaders are equally skeptical about the prospect of term limits.
“Some of the most influential politicians are ones that have been able to work for decades on the same issue,” Penn Democrats President and College sophomore Isabel Friedman explained. Such a law, Friedman said, would knock out key players essential to the creation of important legislation.
Friedman added that it is too early to tell what effects term limits could have, but “if it ever connected to something that affects students” then younger voters might become more interested in the issue.
Others argue that the democratic process takes care of itself. “We have term limits — they’re called elections, and we have them every two years,” UA member and College senior Grant Dubler said.
“Even in districts that are overwhelmingly partisan you can still have primary challengers,” Dubler said. “Seats are never completely safe.”
“It sounds very nice in an idealistic sense, but I don’t want citizen legislators” he added. “I want professionals who know what they are doing.”
Dubler speculated that while older voters are probably more cynical and therefore more in favor of term limits than younger voters, most individuals simply don’t find the issue that motivating.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.