The positives and negatives of limiting the number of consecutive terms a member of Congress can serve


The subject of limiting the number of consecutive terms a congressman can serve has been a discussion topic for several years. Today there is hope that term limitations may be brought into the limelight based on two proposed legislations one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. The limitation applies to consecutive terms but it does not prevent an individual from running again if they so choose after a defined period of time.

Limiting the time an individual can serve has both positive and negative impacts. In one sense it pushes out individuals who have become career politicians and gives others a chance to serve their country if they so choose. Today with some career politicians it is difficult if not impossible to win an election against these individuals. These proposals which amount to joint resolutions in Congress would limit the number of consecutive terms in the House to three which amounts to six years and in the Senate it would limit the consecutive terms to two which amounts twelve years.

The question to be answered is whether it takes an amendment to the Constitution to initiate limitations on term limits in Congress. Under article I sections 2 and 3 the Constitution defines the requirements to be a senator or representative. It does not address term limitations as identified in these two legislative proposals. Under the Constitution the Senate and House of Representatives can generate their own operational rules for governing their legislative bodies.

As mentioned above the limitations for individuals to serve as a senator is limited to two consecutive terms. Individuals who attain such level of service would not be eligible for election or appointment until the date that is one year after the end of such second consecutive term. The limitation for individuals to serve as a representative is limited to three consecutive terms. When an individual reaches this limit an individual will not be eligible for election or appointment until the date that is one year after the end of the sixth consecutive term.

As previously mentioned there pros and cons to establishing term limits on Congress. The pros include removing career politicians from office and allowing new individuals to serve their country. Another pro involves getting rid of individuals who are not serving the interest of their constituents or the country with the decisions they make. In addition if they choose to run for election after the period of time established they will be forced to run on their record for individuals to send them back to Congress. This would not be a problem if an individual’s record signifies a true interest in serving the country and those who elect them.

One specific negative about term limits involves the fact that individuals who are honoring their commitment to the country and their constituents along with the Constitution will be forced out of serving. Joint resolutions 11 and 14 in the House of Representatives are proposing these changes but as the Constitution is silent on this limitation it should be legal for both legislative bodies to impose these limitations. In one sense the qualifications for serving as a senator or representative are clearly defined without limitations on serving but term limitations are a separate entity separate from the eligibility requirements.

The current requirements for running for a seat in the House of Representatives is provided in section 2 of article 1 which states: “No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.” The current requirements for running for a seat in the Senate is provided in Section 3 of article 1 which states: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.”

As you can see the eligibility requirements do not address limitations in fact it is silent. Limitations can be imposed separate from the Constitution. Currently in Congress there are limitations on serving on committees. The same limitations should be legal with regards to term limits. According to the Constitution both legislative bodies can have their own operational rules. Term limits could in my opinion be considered an operational rule but it should be one which is permanent without the potential for change. To that end limitations could be imposed while a formal change to the Constitution is processed. I feel the time for term limitations is long overdue.


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