WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A group of lawmakers argue politicians should have an expiration date, but change is unlikely even with the president's backing.
Those with the most power in Washington are generally the ones who arrived first. A small group of lawmakers say imposing term limits would topple the seniority system, and could fix a dysfunctional congress.
“It’s not going to make it perfect,” said Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), “but it’s going to go 80 to 90 percent of the way of changing the way the swamp works.”
During a recent public discussion, Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa, Virginia’s former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said limits on time in office would translate to assignments based on merit. They said waiting to rise through the ranks stifles new ideas, as lawmaker grow more disconnected from ideals and the people they serve.
“The people who are here a long time, the system beats them down,” said Paul, “until they don’t think anything is possible and everything is the art of incrementalism.”
Opponents of the idea said seniority translates into expertise. The country's longest-serving senator said voters should continue to decide when it's time for a change.
“We have term limits,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), “every two years for the House of Representatives there’s an election, every six years for the Senate.“
Leahy first won election to the Senate in 1974, and grew fonder of the seniority system over time. Rural states like Vermont gain significant clout in D.C. by sending lawmakers back term-after-term.
President Donald Trump promised term limits for lawmakers during his campaign, but hasn’t spoken much about it publicly since. The president has struggled to get his legislative agenda through Congress. Adding congressional term limits would require changing the constitution, and that’s a tougher task than writing or rewriting laws.