My 3rd Promise to South Dakota is one I made months ago: that I will support a Constitutional Amendment imposing Term Limits on Congress, six years in the House and twelve in the Senate, to include any service prior to the amendment’s adoption, which would send home roughly half of all incumbents as their current terms end.
Here’s the problem: Congress has an approval rating that hovers between 10 and 15%, incumbents have re-election rates of over 90%. That suggests we have a hard time firing people who we think are doing a lousy job for us. A major reason for this is that corporate and special interests supply those they control with massive amounts of PAC and other money to keep them in office.
Today we have members of Congress from both parties who have served for 30, 40, and even 50 years there. This isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. Instead, the Constitution’s framers envisioned public servants who would “lay down their plows for a season of service” and then return to their communities to again live as one of the governed.
The reality of human nature is that the longer people spend time in Washington the less responsive they tend to be to the people who sent them there. Worse yet, those in Congress now who have been there for such a long time are taking seats in Washington that could go to new faces and a new generation of public servants with fresh ideas. It’s time for change in Washington.
I want to end the thinking that suggests that only a select few Americans can serve in Congress, and that it is a place to go to advance a career rather than a place to serve.
If a political leader is truly a wonderful public servant and wants to continue to serve, it doesn’t hurt our nation to allow that individual to sit out an election cycle, watching from the bench for awhile to regain the people’s perspective, and then seek election without the benefit of incumbency.
That’s why, in addition to other Congressional reforms I have recommended, I support term limits. It is a necessary first step to more fundamental reform in Congress, because we’re not going to reform Congress by sending and keeping career politicians there. Real change will come only from the outside.