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104th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 104-67
TERM LIMITS FOR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
March 6, 1995.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be
Mr. Canady, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the
R E P O R T
ADDITIONAL AND DISSENTING VIEWS
[To accompany H.J. Res. 2]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the
joint resolution (H.J. Res. 2) proposing an amendment to the
Constitution of the United States with respect to the number of
terms of office of Members of the Senate and the House of
Representatives, having considered the same, report an
amendment, but without recommendation on the joint resolution
The amendment.................................................... 2
Purpose and summary.............................................. 2
Background and need for the amendment............................ 2
Constitutional amendment procedures.............................. 3
Committee consideration.......................................... 4
Vote of the Committee............................................ 4
Committee oversight findings..................................... 6
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight..................... 7
Congressional Budget Office estimate............................. 7
Inflationary impact statement.................................... 7
Section-by-section analysis and discussion....................... 8
Additional views................................................. 9
Dissenting views................................................. 12
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the resolving clause and insert in
lieu thereof the following:
That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the
Constitution of the United States:
``Section 1. No person who has been elected for a full term to the
Senate two consecutive times shall be eligible for election or
appointment to the Senate for a third consecutive term. No person who
has been elected for a full term to the House of Representatives six
consecutive times shall be eligible for election to the House of
Representatives for a seventh consecutive term.
``Section 2. Service as a Senator or Representative for more than
half of a term to which someone else was originally elected shall be
considered an election for the purposes of section 1.
``Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have
been ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several
States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States
by the Congress.
``Section 4. No election or service occurring before this article
becomes operative shall be taken into account when determining
eligibility for election under this article.
``Section 5. No provision of any State statute or constitution
shall diminish or enhance, directly or indirectly, the limits set by
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY
The Republican ``Contract with America'' promises a floor
vote on proposed constitutional amendments to limit the terms
of Members of the United States Senate and House of
Representatives within the first one hundred days of the 104th
Congress. Pursuant to this commitment, the Committee on the
Judiciary met on February 28, 1995 and moved to report the
resolution, H.J. Res. 2 without recommendation. H.J. Res. 2, if
approved by two-thirds of the members of both the House and
Senate, and if ratified by three-fourths of the States, will
limit United States Senators to two full, consecutive terms (12
years) and Members of the House of Representatives to six full,
consecutive terms (12 years).
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR THE AMENDMENT
In recent years, proposals to limit the terms of State and
Federal officeholders have proved increasingly popular. Since
1990, 21 of the 24 States that have the initiative process have
passed ballot measures limiting congressional terms. There are
now 22 States with congressional terms. There are now 22 States
with congressional terms limits.\1\ Some States specify a
maximum number of terms or years that Members are allowed to
serve, either consecutively or within a specified period. Other
States prohibit a candidate's name from appearing on the ballot
if he or she has served beyond a specified period or has been
elected more than a specified number of times.
\1\ The Utah State legislature enacted legislation to limit U.S.
Senators and Representatives to 12 year terms in May of 1994.
This past election congressional term limits were on the
ballot in eight States: Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maine,
Nebraska, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. Colorado was the first
State to pass term limits in 1990 of two terms for Senators and
six for House Members. The November 8, 1994 vote further
restricted those terms to three years for House Members. On
November 8, 1994, voters in Utah rejected a ballot initiative
to further restrict the terms of House Members to 6 years.
Some supporters of term limits argue that States currently
have the authority to limit the number of terms that can be
served by virtue of Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the
Constitution, which allows States to prescribe the ``times,
places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and
Representatives.'' Others argue, however, that such actions by
the States represent an attempt to expand upon the
qualifications of Federal legislators which are established and
defined in the Constitution and cannot be changed by State
laws. See, Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969).
The issue of the authority of the States to limit the terms
of Members of Congress is being addressed by the United States
Supreme Court in U.S. Term Limits v. Hill, No. 93-1456. In U.S.
Term Limits, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether
Article I of the Constitution forbids States from declining to
print the names of multi-term incumbents in the U.S. House of
Representatives and Senate on their election ballots. At issue
is an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Arkansas
which provides that a person who has served three or more terms
in the House or two or more terms in the Senate representing
Arkansas ``shall not be eligible to appear on the ballot for
election'' to the House or Senate. If the Court rules in favor
of the restriction imposed by the State of Arkansas, a
constitutional amendment to impose term limits should not be
necessary. If supporters wish to have uniform limits for all
fifty States, however, such an amendment will still be
desirable. If the court rules against the power of the States
to impose such restrictions on ballot access, then the
Constitution must be amended in order to impose such limits.
constitutional amendment procedures
Article V of the United States Constitution provides that
the Congress has the authority to propose amendments to the
Constitution. Such proposed amendments must be approved by a
two-thirds vote of both Houses. Congress must also specify
whether the ratification process is to be done through the
State legislatures or by State conventions. H.J. Res. 2
proposes ratification through the State legislatures.
On February 3, 1995, the Subcommittee on the Constitution
held one day of hearings on the issue of term limits for
Members of the United States Senate and House of
Representatives. The Subcommittee heard testimony from the
following witnesses: Representative Tillie Fowler,
Representative Bill McCollum, Representative Nathan Deal,
Representative Douglas ``Pete'' Peterson, Representative Donald
Payne, Representative Ray Thornton, U.S. Senator Fred Thompson,
U.S. Senator Mitchell McConnell, former U.S. Senator Dennis
DeConcini, Charles Kesler, Director of the Henry Salvatori
Center, Claremont McKenna College, John G. Kester, Williams and
Connolly, Thomas E. Mann, The Brookings Institution, the
Honorable Thomas Fetzer, Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina,
Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, General Counsel, Term Limits Legal
Institute, Fred Wertheimer, President, Common Cause, Becky
Cain, League of Women Voters. Additional testimony was received
from Representative Frank A. LoBiondo.
During the 103rd Congress, the Subcommittee on Civil and
Constitutional Rights held two hearings on term limits on
November 18, 1993 and June 29, 1994. (Serial No. 66). The
Judiciary Committee has never before considered term limits
resolutions nor has the House ever voted on the issue of term
limits for Members of the House and Senate.
On February 28, 1995 the Committee met in open session and
ordered reported the resolution H.J. Res. 2, with an amendment,
without recommendation, by a recorded vote of 21-14.
vote of the committee
The Committee considered the following with recorded votes:
1. Mr. Frank offered an amendment to take into account
elections or service occurring prior to the amendment becoming
operative when determining eligibility for elections. Mr.
Frank's amendment was defeated by a rollcall vote of 15-20.
Mr. Conyers Mr. Hyde
Mrs. Schroeder Mr. Moorhead
Mr. Frank Mr. McCollum
Mr. Schumer Mr. Gekas
Mr. Berman Mr. Coble
Mr. Boucher Mr. Smith (TX)
Mr. Bryant (TX) Mr. Gallegly
Mr. Nadler Mr. Canady
Mr. Scott Mr. Inglis
Mr. Watt Mr. Goodlatte
Mr. Becerra Mr. Buyer
Mr. Serrano Mr. Hoke
Ms. Lofgren Mr. Bono
Mr. Sensenbrenner Mr. Heineman
Mr. Schiff Mr. Bryant (TN)
Ms. Jackson Lee
2. Mr. Gekas offered an amendment, as amended by Mr.
Goodlatte, to allow Members who have served 12 consecutive
years to again be eligible for election or appointment if they
sit out at least one full term. The amendment offered by Mr.
Gekas, as amended by Mr. Goodlatte, was adopted by a rollcall
vote of 21-13.
Mr. Conyers Mr. Hyde
Mrs. Schroeder Mr. McCollum
Mr. Frank Mr. Coble
Mr. Schumer Mr. Schiff
Mr. Berman Mr. Gallegly
Mr. Boucher Mr. Inglis
Mr. Bryant (TX) Mr. Hoke
Mr. Reed Mr. Bono
Mr. Nadler Mr. Heineman
Mr. Scott Mr. Bryant (TN)
Mr. Watt Mr. Chabot
Mr. Becerra Mr. Flanagan
Mr. Serrano Mr. Barr
Ms. Jackson Lee
Mr. Smith (TX)
3. Mr. McCollum offered an amendment in the nature of a
substitute to the Scott amendment to pre-empt any applicable,
valid State laws limiting the terms of Members. The McCollum
amendment was adopted by a rollcall vote of 21-11.
Mr. Hyde Mr. Sensenbrenner
Mr. Moorhead Mr. Coble
Mr. McCollum Mr. Schiff
Mr. Gekas Mr. Canady
Mr. Smith (TX) Mr. Inglis
Mr. Gallegly Mr. Bono
Mr. Goodlatte Mr. Scott
Mr. Buyer Mr. Watt
Mr. Hoke Mr. Becerra
Mr. Heineman Ms. Lofgren
Mr. Bryant (TN) Ms. Jackson Lee
Mr. Bryant (TX)
4. Mr. McCollum offered an amendment in the nature of a
substitute to limit the number of terms of office of Members of
the Senate to 12 years and the House of Representatives to 12
years. The McCollum amendment was adopted by a rollcall vote of
20-14; 1 voting present.
Mr. Hyde Mr. Conyers
Mr. Moorhead Mrs. Schroeder
Mr. Sensenbrenner Mr. Schumer
Mr. McCollum Mr. Berman
Mr. Gekas Mr. Boucher
Mr. Coble Mr. Bryant (TX)
Mr. Smith (TX) Mr. Reed
Mr. Schiff Mr. Nadler
Mr. Gallegly Mr. Scott
Mr. Canady Mr. Watt
Mr. Inglis Mr. Becerra
Mrs. Goodlatte Mr. Serrano
Mr. Buyer Ms. Lofgren
Mr. Hoke Ms. Jackson Lee
Mr. Bryant (TN)
Present: Mr. Frank.
5. Motion to report H.J. Res. 2, as amended, without
recommendation to the House. Motion was agreed to by a rollcall
vote of 21-14.
Mr. Hyde Mr. Conyers
Mr. Moorhead Mrs. Schroeder
Mr. Sensenbrenner Mr. Frank
Mr. McCollum Mr. Schumer
Mr. Gekas Mr. Berman
Mr. Coble Mr. Boucher
Mr. Smith (TX) Mr. Bryant (TX)
Mr. Schiff Mr. Reed
Mr. Gallegly Mr. Nadler
Mr. Canady Mr. Scott
Mr. Inglis Mr. Watt
Mr. Goodlatte Mr. Becerra
Mr. Buyer Mr. Serrano
Mr. Hoke Ms. Jackson Lee
Mr. Bryant (TN)
committee oversight findings
In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee reports
that the findings and recommendations of the Committee, based
on oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the
description portions of this report.
committee on government reform and oversight findings
No findings or recommendations of the Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight were received as referred to in
clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of
new budget authority and tax expenditures
Clause 2(l)(3)(B) of House Rule XI is inapplicable because
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or
increased tax expenditures.
congressional budget office cost estimate
In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(C) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets
forth, with respect to the resolution H.J. Res. 2, the
following estimate and comparison prepared by the Director of
the Congressional Budget Office under section 403 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, March 2, 1995.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
reviewed H.J. Res. 2, a joint resolution proposing a
constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms, as
ordered reported by the House Committee on the Judiciary on
February 28, 1995. We expect that enactment of this resolution
would result in no significant cost or savings to the federal
government, and no cost to state and local governments. Because
enactment of H.J. Res. 2 would not affect direct spending or
receipts, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply to the bill.
The joint resolution would propose amending the
constitution to limit the number of consecutive terms that
Senators and Representatives may serve. The proposed amendment
would limit Senators to two consecutive terms and
Representatives to six consecutive terms. To become effective,
two-thirds of the members of both houses would have to vote to
approve the resolution, and three-fourths of the states would
have to ratify the proposed amendment within seven years.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Mark
June O'Neill, Director.
inflationary impact statement
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(4) of rule XI of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, the Committee estimates that H.J. Res
2 will have no significant inflationary impact on prices and
costs in the national economy.
section-by-section analysis and discussion
Section 1 sets forth the limitations on eligibility for
service for Members of the United States Senate and House of
Representatives. A person who has been elected to the Senate
for two full, consecutive terms shall not be eligible for
election or appointment to the Senate for a third consecutive
term. In addition, a person who has been elected for six full,
consecutive terms to the House of Representatives shall not be
eligible for election for a seventh consecutive term.
For the purpose of considering elections which count toward
the relevant limit, Section 2 provides that service as a
Senator or Representative for more than half of a term to which
someone else was originally elected shall be considered as an
election. This section will ensure that no Member will be
permitted to serve beyond the 12-year limit in the House or the
Senate because the Member is serving the remainder of a term
(either through election in the House or election or
appointment in the Senate).
This section sets a seven=year limit on ratification of the
amendment from the time it is submitted to the States by the
Congress. Pursuant to Article V of the United States
Constitution, the amendment must be ratified by three-fourths
of the State legislatures.
This section makes clear that elections or service
occurring prior to ratification by three-fourths of the States
shall not be counted when determining eligibility for election.
Although the amendment, if ratified by three-fourths of the
States, will apply to sitting Members of Congress, elections
and service of those Members prior to the date the amendment
takes effect will not count in determining future eligibility
This section, which was added in Committee, provides that
the constitutional amendment will pre-empt State laws
attempting to set limits on the terms of Members. This section
also guarantees that uniform limits on terms of Members of the
House and Senate shall apply to all the States.
ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF HON. HENRY J. HYDE
Although I am opposed to artificial term limits for members
of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, I
voted to report H.J. Res. 2 without recommendation so that this
important issue can be the subject of a full and fair debate on
the House floor.
The United States Constitution provides that the members of
the House of Representatives shall be ``chosen every second
Year'' \1\ and the members of the Senate shall be ``elected by
the people thereof, for six years. . . .'' \2\ As a fundamental
matter, every time voters go to the polls, they make the
decision of whether to ``limit'' the term of their elected
\1\ U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 2, cl. 1.
\2\ U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 3, cl. 1. Amend. XVII, Clause 1.
Nonetheless, proponents continue to press for government-
imposed restrictions on the terms of members of Congress. Some
supporters of term limits believe we need to resurrect the
principle of ``rotation in office.'' Some support term limits
because they believe that the idea of a ``professional'' or
``career'' politician is incompatible with the concept of the
``citizen'' legislator. Certain supporters of term limits argue
that they are needed to make representatives more responsive to
the needs of the electorate. Some, like noted columnist and
author George Will, argue the opposite: that term limits are
needed to create a constitutional ``distance'' which will allow
representatives to engage in deliberative decisionmaking in
pursuit of the best interests of the nation, not their own re-
The frustration with Washington felt by the citizens who
have voted in favor of term limits resolutions in the States is
real. They want less spending, lower taxes and less regulation
and they sent a clear and unmistakable signal to Washington to
that effect on November 8, 1994. Fundamentally, however, term
limits are not as much a restriction on the power of the
Federal government as they are an abridgement of the rights of
citizens to choose who will represent them. This sentiment was
expressed by Robert R. Livingston during the New York debates
on adoption of the Federal Constitution with respect to the
issue of ``rotation in office:''
The people are the best judges who ought to represent
them. To dictate and control them, to tell them whom
they shall not elect, is to abridge their natural
rights. This rotation is an absurd species of
ostracism--a mode of proscribing eminent merit, and
banishing from stations of trust those who have filled
them with the greatest faithfulness. Besides, it takes
away the strongest stimulus of public virtue--the hope
of honors and rewards. The acquisition of abilities is
hardly worth the trouble, unless one is to enjoy the
satisfaction of employing them for the good of one's
country. We all know that experience is indispensably
necessary to good government. Shall we, then, drive
experience into obscurity? I repeat that this is an
absolute abridgment of the people's rights. 2 Debates
on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 292-293
(J.Elliot) (1988) (speech of R. Livingston).
Although the principle of ``rotation in office'' was a part of
the Articles of Confederation, it was subsequently rejected by
the members of the Constitutional Convention.\3\
\3\ Art. of Confed. art. V, cl. 2. The Committee of the Whole of
the Constitutional Convention considered the question of term limits
for the legislature on June 12, 1787. See, Max Farrand, ed., ``The
Records of the Federal Convention of 1787'' (1911; New Haven, Conn.:
Yale University Press, 1966), vol. 1, p. 210.
Some supporters argue that term limits will restrict the
ability of the Federal Government to interfere in our daily
lives. It seems far more likely, however, that the opposite
will be true. If the terms of House and Senate members are
limited, so to will be the ability of the Congress to restrain
the unelected and virtually unaccountable civil servants who
run the executive branch of our Federal government.
Some support term limits as a means of resurrecting the
concept of a ``citizen'' legislator, as opposed to the
``professional'' or ``career'' politician. I submit, however,
that complexity of today's modern world calls for
``professionalism'' and expertise in the realm of government no
less than in the other spheres of society. As Thomas Mann of
the Brookins Institution stated recently in testimony submitted
to the Subcommittee on the Constitution:
[C]areful study of Congress and every other sector of
society suggests that greater professionalism is a
necessary offshoot of the growth and specialization of
the modern world. . . . [A]dvocates of term limits are
hard pressed to offer any examples of amateurism
operating successfully in contemporary society, in the
United States or abroad. George Will got it right the
first time when he wrote: ``The day of the `citizen
legislator'--the day when a legislator's primary job
was something other than government--is gone. A great
state cannot be run by `citizen legislators' and
amateur administrators.'' ``The Politics and Law of
Term Limits,'' Edward H. Crane and Roger Pilon, eds.,
(Washington, DC: CATO Institute, 1994) p. 87. Citing
George F. Will, ``Statecraft as Soulcraft'' (New York:
Simon & Shuster, 1983) p. 16.
This nation's future depends on the caliber of the people
leading it. We need individuals with the self-confidence, the
experience, the wisdom and the judgment to be able to negotiate
issues of war and peace. We get these people from the crucible
of politics and experience. Term limits will not only deprive
us of the institutional memory of Members of Congress needed to
guide us, it will deprive us of the individual memories which
bring experience to bear on the important issues of the day. In
short, we cannot afford to disqualify those who can bring sound
judgment born of years of experience to the increasingly
demanding tasks of elected office.
Our current system provides the mix of ``institutional
memory, experience, knowledge, and wisdom as well as regular
infusions of new members with fresh ideas willing to challenge
old ways of doing the people's business.'' \4\ The election of
1994 showed that the American people already have the power to
limit the terms of officeholders who fail to represent them
according to their wishes. Term limits will restrict this vital
ability which is the cornerstone of representative democracy
and should, therefore, be rejected.
\4\ Testimony of Thomas Mann before the Subcommittee on the
Constitution, February 3, 1995. 104th Congress, first session.
Henry J. Hyde.
Because we believe that the Judiciary Committee has
reported to the full House of Representatives term limits
legislation which is anti-democratic, we dissent.
Term limits are anti-democratic. They impair without
recourse a fundamental right of people to vote for whomever
they choose. ``If somebody came up to me and said you have to
vote for this person, I would be offended. I would say you
don't understand democracy. Now, I fail to see the difference
between someone coming up and saying you cannot vote for this
person. I would say you don't understand democracy, either.''
Chairman Henry Hyde, House Judiciary Committee, Judiciary
Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution's Term Limits
Hearing, February 3, 1995, at pages 7-8. We agree with Chairman
Term limits are completely unnecessary. Congressional
turnover is not low. The reelection rate for incumbents who
seek reelection has been over time high, (between 1790 and 1988
the incumbency return rate was less than 70% only seven times)
but an important indicator rarely mentioned by term limits
supporters is that many incumbents have not sought reelection.
As a result, slightly more than half (52 percent) of the
current Members of the House were initially elected in 1990 and
thereafter. In the 103d Congress, 72% of the House and Senate
Members were elected in 1980 and after.
The bill reported out of the Judiciary Committee is
inconsistent. The Judiciary Committee rejected an amendment
which would have made the measure applicable to Members of the
House and Senate currently serving. The amendment offered to
strike that portion of Mr. McCollum's substitute which provides
``[n]o election or service occurring before this article
becomes operative shall be taken into account when determining
eligibility for election under this article.''
With seven years for ratification and twelve years of
limit, current Members would not be affected for at least
nineteen years. It is our view that if term limits are deemed
an appropriate measure, a view we do not hold, then those term
limits should apply to current lawmakers. The Committee's
rejection of this fundamentally fair notion lays bare their
true goals: a complete pandering to that part of the electorate
which calls for Congressional reforms, as long as the solution
doesn't affect any sitting Member.
The supporters responded to an amendment for retroactive
application by claiming that an important interest group, U.S.
Term Limits, opposes retroactivity, arguing that none of the
states' limits laws are retroactive. The majority is selective
in its reliance on U.S. Term Limits. That group also expressly
favors six year term limits and no preemption of states' rules,
wishes the majority rejected.
Term limits would remove critical leadership and
institutional abilities of Members. Important substantive areas
of legislation rely on experienced, knowledgeable leaders:
communications, natural resources, substantive criminal law,
intellectual property, etc., have all been positively
influenced by Members with many years of in-depth experience in
these areas. Every other area of professionalism in this nation
values experience, tenure, and the wisdom which can come with
terms of service. Term limits would destroy this opportunity
and make Congress an institution where inexperience is more
valued than professionalism and experience.
Now, I want a career dentist to work on me, career. I
want him to have been there. Therefore, what about a
career politician? Isn't that--can't anybody do that
job, anybody? Get the first 400 names out of the
directory. I just made a little list of the things you
had better be expert in, you had better be
knowledgeable about if you are a politician serving in
this building: agriculture, environment, weapons
systems, international relations, banking, finance,
urban affairs, tax policy, budget policy,
administration of justice, bankruptcy law, tort,
medical malpractice, product liability, immigration
policy, criminal law, intellectual property, customs,
health care, trade policy, education and labor, and on
and on and on and on--a lifetime's work, to know about
one of these subjects. You better know about a lot of
them, because you are voting for your people.
This is not an easy job, and it can't be done
overnight. It takes years. When they operate on your
brain, when they bring that saw next to your skull, you
had better ask for a career neurologist who is going to
do that. And you had better, in time of national
crisis--not a check writing scandal; I mean, when the
nuclear bombs are about to fly, I mean when Iran is
going to take over the Persian Gulf--you better have
some Everett Dirksens, some Henry Jacksons, some Hubert
Humphreys, you had better have a few people who have
been there before and have some institutional memory.
You demean the importance of this job by saying
anybody can do it.
Chairman Henry Hyde, House Judiciary Committee, Judiciary
Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution's Term Limits
Hearing, February 3, 1995, at pages 54-55.
Term limits increase the power of appointed officials, both
Congressional staffers and Executive Branch career employees.
Agency employees and Congressional staffers would play a
relatively more important role, with inexperienced Members
susceptible to the manipulation and influence of more
A 1989 study showed that 70 percent of career executives in
the Executive Branch have been with their agencies for 10
years, and 50 percent for 15 years.\1\ A 1993 study showed that
the ``typical Federal civilian employee'' had a length of
service of 14.9 years average, for full time permanent
employees.\2\ For the majority who rail against the power of
Federal Agencies and use ``bureaucrats'' as a pejorative, term
limits for Members of Congress make no sense.
\1\ Leadership for America, Rebuilding the Public Service, Task
Force Reports to The National Commission on the Public Service, Paul A.
Volcker, Chairman, 1989, at page 163.
\2\ Federal Civilian Workforce Statistics, Employment and Trends as
of November 1993, OPM, at page 78 (1993).
Term limits supporters claim mutually exclusive goals:
limits will make legislators closer to the people and limits
will make legislators more distant. Supporters of term limits
argue that what would cure Congress' ills would be to replace
it with Members who are ``citizen legislators'' who would
undertake the job as a civic duty for a short time rather than
as a career. The current professional legislator means that you
``no longer work, shop, commute or send your children to school
among your constituents. The attitudes and outlook inside the
beltway among what has become a professional political class is
indeed different from that in the rest of the nation, and
Members of Congress spend far more time here than they did
twenty or thirty years ago ...'' \3\
\3\ David Mason, Heritage Foundation, Judiciary's Constitution
Subcommittee Hearing at 41 (1993).
Then, in complete contradiction to that premise, term limit
supporters take a completely opposite tack, arguing that term
limits are ``not to make Congress closer to the people, but to
establish a constitutional distance for a more deliberative
process, all of which would restore to Congress its proper
stature. A deliberative Congress would cut the presidency down
to size from its current swollen nature.'' \4\
\4\ Will, George, Speech to Cato Institute, 12/1/93, reprinted in
Constitution Subcommittee Hearing Transcript, at page 215 (1993).
Taken together, the two viewpoints underscore the
intellectual inconsistency of the term limits movement. On the
one hand the current Congress is criticized as too close to the
people, too responsive to their wishes, and thus in need of
being replaced. With what? With those who are truly citizens.
People who understand every day people. And, the logic goes,
these citizen legislators would be more responsive than current
Members, because they would understand ordinary people better.
So, the argument is, replace entrenched Members who are too
close to the people and can't make hard decisions which are
unpopular with ordinary citizens with Members who are close to
the people precisely because they are ``ordinary.''
The founders explicitly disapproved of limitations on terms of service
As an historical matter this issue was decided properly in
the earlier days of this Republic. The Articles of
Confederation provided that Members of Congress rotate out
after serving three one year terms within any six year period.
Art. of Confed. art. V, cl. 2. Since rotation was part of the
Articles of Confederation, the Founders debated it at the
Constitutional Convention as a corollary to term length.\5\
\5\ At the Constitutional Conventions terms of office of one, two
and three years were proposed, with most support centering around
either one or three year terms. Two year terms received little support
at first, but was settled upon as a compromise. Madison had supported
the two years as a compromise in the ``Federalist'' Nos. 52 and 53.
Rotation, argued the Anti-Federalists, would provide
members with a more intimate knowledge of their country and
constituency, as well as prevent the abuses of corruption and
would encourage a greater number of people to hold public
office. The Federalists argued that reelection is an incentive
to be responsive to the needs of the constituents.
When a man knows he must quit his station, let his
merit be what it may, he will turn his attention
chiefly to his own emolument.
Two, debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution
288 (J. Elliot) (1888) (speech of A. Hamilton) at 320.
The Virginia Plan, a compromise, was introduced by Edmund
Randolph at the Convention. The plan would have rendered
members of the House ineligible for reelection for an
unspecified period after their term's end. The Convention
expunged the limitation less than a month after it had been
proposed, without ever specifying the proposed period. The
Convention also debated a limit for the Executive, and decided
Jose E. Serrano.
Robert C. Scott.
Sheila Jackson Lee.
Howard L. Berman.
Melvin L. Watt.