How Long Do Representatives and Senators Usually Serve Once They Are Elected?

Staying in the Senate with tenure?

Are Insiders inside too long?
Are Insiders inside too long? | Source

And what can Americans do when they have a "do nothing Congress"?

Here is some valuable information to consider this year: the average tenure of a United States Representative in Congress is said to be 6 years, and the average tenure for a senator is said to be 8 years. That doesn't seem excessive, right? So far, so good. The average for those who become committee chairmen (due to seniority) is considerably longer. Sadly, by the time that happens many are well connected in Washington, DC and no longer so well "in touch" with anyone except possibly their state's politicians back home, while their focus seems to have become staying in DC for the power and benefits.

Worse still, they have the power and expectation that they can keep "the newcomers" in line with what the old timers see as their own vested interests. Lobbyists know them well, contributors know what they get (or don't) for what they give, and gerrymandering back home generally accommodates their getting to stay in DC.

If you take the average tenure of a Representative who goes on to become one of the two Senators from their state, the statistics tell us that they likely are "part of the Washington Establishment" for 14 years, and some like Utah's Senator Orin Hatch stay for many more years than that and still run for reelection! The patient is unquestionably ill and the Founding Fathers knew even then how it could be fixed...by the voters!

Senator Hatch has served six terms in the Senate and is campaigning for a seventh on the basis that (if the Republicans gain control of the Senate---which is not so likely) he would become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. If he wins his 7th term, he will be ensconced no matter what happens with control of the Senate, and would probably only leave his 7th term in the Senate, if some president got him a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court!

Hatch’s argument that America needs him as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee because of his conservative Republican values, such as drastic spending cuts and a balanced budget, are not a valid argument for giving him a 7th term! Why? If the Republicans should manage to win control of the Senate, some Republican (presumably with Republican values) will head the Senate Finance Committee even if the voters finally retire their soon-to-be 77 year old senator short of his 7th term!

Term limits on how long members of Congress can serve in Washington, DC have been a regular topic of discussion with wide popular appeal. To have term limits, however, Congress would have to pass the legislation, and that is highly unlikely.

That leaves only one way for the public to limit how long members of Congress serve: every now and then vote for someone new to give America their two cents worth!

if voters think that by electing the same members of Congress year after year they can raise the approval rating of what is often termed "a do nothing Congress," they need their own heads examined!

What can you as an individual do? How about this approach: http://perspycacious.hubpages.com/hub/A-Letter-To-The-Editor ?

If you are concerned about America, take the poll on this site: http://perspycacious.hubpages.com/hub/America-Where-Are-You

Copyright 2012 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.


3/10/2014 NOTE: Senator Hatch won his 7th term and is representing Utah in the Senate for some time to come. "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Is it possible for old senators to never die, but just fade away still seated in the Senate? He has provided valuable service, but in his seven runs for office, has there been no other candidate with even better ideas? If the Republican Party takes control of the Senate in November 2014, "7 Terms Hatch" is likely to become the Senate Finance Committee chairman after all.

11/5/2014 NOTE: Senator Hatch in January 2015 will, as a result of the midterm election gains of the Republicans, not only become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but he will also become the president pro tempore of the Senate, and 3rd in the line of succession to the presidency after the Vice President and the Speaker of The House.!

Representative Rob Bishop, another Republican from Utah, just won his 7th term. Representative Mia Love, another Republican just elected to her first term representing her district in Utah, is the first Republican woman elected to the House of Representatives, so there is a significant newcomer from Utah after all.

The real answer to this question?

I am afraid the real answer to this question is: too long!




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Comments 14 comments

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I agree so much I wrote a hub about this topic myself this year: Do You Want To Change The Wold? Don't Reelect Your Congressmen

Up and Useful


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

Kathleen Cochran: I just added a link to this to encourage readers to realize what else they can do to retire both parties of this "do nothing Congress."


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Helpful idea. I think if congressmen thought it likely they'd only get one term they would be more dedicated to accomplishing something in the brief time they have the chance.


cprice75 profile image

cprice75 4 years ago from USA

Americans tend to complain about Congress, yet usually between 80-90% of its members get returned every election. Why is this? Most think Congress is generally in bad shape, but that their Congressman/woman is one of the good ones. Therefore, they keep sending the same people term after term and nothing much changes. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is insane.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Great Hub. We should have term limits, but you are right it is unlikely that Congress will ever pass them.

cprice75 is also right. We the people need to stop acting as if we are insane and start voting in our own best interests.


Davesworld profile image

Davesworld 4 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

But what do you do when your, long-term, Congressman agrees with your positions most of the time and the other guy is a looney tunes, or at least when it comes to your belief system. You shoot yourself in the foot if you vote simply on the "throw the reascals out" position.

The only solution is legislated term limits. Then you have the choice between two new guys, one your kind of guy and one nutso. But then, the foxes aren't about to legislate themselves out of the job of guarding the henhouse, so don't hold your breath about this ever happening.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

Davesworld: What are the chances that in the 35 years of this particular senator's DC political tenure none of his opponents have had some better ideas and dedication to the country's best interests? He is a good man, but so are many other aspirants. The "80%-90% returned incumbents formula" has proven itself to be a disaster of undue influence on them from equally entranched lobbyists, corporate donors, and others who get their way with these career politicians! If terms aren't limited, our only recourse is to vote them out.


Davesworld profile image

Davesworld 4 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

I'm going to try to keep this non-partisan so the wording is a bit clumsy.

My Congresscritter is finishing his fifth term. He is closer to the political center than I would like him to be, but is still on the correct side of the political divide. Every time for five years, and I suspect it will be true this time as will, his opponent was positioned farther from the center on the wrong side of the line than my Congresscritter.

I do myself harm if I vote for the opponent just because I think it is time for any Congresscritter to leave office. I continue to vote my best self interest by returning the 10 year veteran, knowing fully well that he is slowly becoming one of the problems in Washington, and slowly but surely his votes become less and less aligned with my wishes. I harm myself by voting for the other guy because none of his positions are tolerable to me.

Congressional redistricting was supposed to fix this problem. Every ten years, as population changed, new districts were supposed to allow new people to run for Congress. Doesn't work out that way in practice when state legislators gerrymander districts to preserve members of their party and attempt to defeat members of the opposition.

I am not opposed to term limits, even though we will find ourselves throwing out good apples along with the bad. I just don't think you or I or my children will ever live to see it.

Changing redistricting to some non-partisan scheme might be an easier thing to accomplish. Iowa has done it, the rest of the states could do it too.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

We need term limits and we must make our representatives subject to the same laws that we are. i think that would go a long way towards making them more responsible. They are not above the law and they do work for us.


geordmc 4 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

They hold office WAY TOO LONG !!!


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

geordmc: Staying in Congress has become the goal of even the Congressional representatives who promised that "I will only serve two terms!" and who then stay, and stay, and stay. I agree, it's time for them to go home, come home, stay home, and reconnect with the life they have created for us by living it themselves.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 21 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

Will anyone really know how much the SuperPACs drowned out the voices of the common American? Not only did they outspend the common man, they made it seem pointless to even donate the smaller contributions the average man, woman, and family might otherwise have donated to their favorite candidate's campaign. Thus it came down to a contest between large, special interests , with winner take all. That is hardly democracy in action. Shame on you Justices of the Supreme Court! In addition to the letter of the law, there is a deeper concept: the spirit of the law.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 20 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

A mailman registered his protest in a dramatic fashion and will pay a price for doing so while not hurting anyone and also alerting sleeping officials to the further dangers terrorists can pose.

How will you register your own protest that Super PACs and Super Super PACs violate the spirit of the law and drown out what democracy we have in this republic? A phone call or two to your congressmen, a letter or two of protest to the local papers and the White House, a written piece of satire, any of these can have some influence too.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 13 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond Author

phdast,

Watch for what I hope will be my Opinion piece in the Washington Post. My title is "Football Fascination" but I have no idea whether or not they will print it and what title they might assign. If they don't run it, I will find it another home and then here on HP.

Someone asked a related question here on HP today related to flip flops and you might find my response to be of interest, for it encapsulates our problems.

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