I used to believe that Congress needed some term limits. My thinking was that if the president was limited to a term limit, members of Congress should be, too.
Being a young college student, I kind of saw congress as full of old people, members who have been there for decades and are disconnected from reality.
At first glance, term limits seem like they would help with some of the issues within our legislative system. Having a cycle of new members would flush out the career politicians who have been there for longer than I’ve been alive.
But after some digging and reading through countless stories and articles, my opinion has changed.
I believe that if term limits were enacted onto members of Congress, our whole process of making laws would become even more delayed and ineffective than it already is.
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Think about it. Being in the Senate or House of Representatives is like any other career: the longer you are doing it, the better you become at it. I hate the idea of having all these dusty-old politicians from the 80s trying to pass laws that impact me and countless other groups, but I have to admit they have experience.
They have years of knowledge of how the legislative system works, they know the dos and don’ts of Congress and they know how to get bills turned into laws. They know how to communicate with constituents (some of them), how to work under the stresses of multiple interest groups and lobbyists and how the congressional game is played.
As I said earlier, the system itself is already a slow process.
Let's say we add a two-term maximum similar to that of the president — so four years maximum for the House of Representatives and 12 years maximum for the Senate. With these limits, congress would take even longer to get laws to pass.
New members would still be able to propose bill ideas, but it takes time for these bills to go through the process of becoming law. The time it takes is chaotic - it could take just a month or multiple months, but they must be passed within that current congressional session.
If the bill isn’t passed within that time window, it is dropped or revived for the next session. Having a term limit would make this process even more difficult.
Bills also demand the cooperation of multiple members, all working together on writing revisions and new points. Then the bill must go through resolutions, be reviewed by multiple committees and then finally be voted upon.
If these term limits were placed, the framers of specific bills could be pushed out of office even before it passes. Members of certain committees reviewing a bill wouldn’t have the insight that a seasoned congressperson would have, and their review of the bill might not have the same quality.
On top of all that, the 117th Congress only had 7% of its proposed bills signed into law. The average number of bills passed has stayed below 10% since the 93rd Congress, which began on Jan. 3, 1973.
Why would we want to make an already flawed and sluggish institution even worse?
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By the time these new members have a better understanding of Congress, their term would already be at the limit. And instead of Congress being the mess it already is, it would now be a trash-heap of inexperienced lawmakers.
Having fresh faces isn’t a bad thing, and having good intentions and ideas of bills that can help various groups is a great thing. But I think the truth is that experience and time surpasses all these things.
You can’t get important bills passed without knowing how the internal world of Congress functions, and you can’t get a law signed if you aren’t able to pass it in time. To you and me it seems like it wouldn’t be hard. Outsiders think it's easier than it actually is.
But members of congress need to know all the aspects and little details of how the realm of legislation operates, and for that to happen we need these members to have years of experience and not be constrained to a term limit.
Nick Moser (he/him) is a senior majoring in English and minoring in political science and film production.