Congress Needs Term Limits

By Allison Markman

New York City, New York

Ideally, the US needs a constitutional amendment to ratify Congressional term limits (Photo Credit: Pew Research Center)

Congress needs to enact term limits in order to hear new voices and ideas.


Many current Congress members do not express their true thoughts on topical issues because they worry that doing so would ruin their chances of re-election. I believe that making Congressional positions term limited will encourage more candid debate and forge a more democratic and progressive society.


This reform surpasses partisan gridlock, and is largely supported by the American population. According to termlimits.com, 82% of Americans are in support of a Congressional term limit amendment.


In the US, the role of President has a term limit for a reason. Term limits keep the role democratic and ensure that one person does not cling to power for too long.


Some may argue that Congressional elections function as term limits, but this is simply not true. Donors to political campaigns know incumbent candidates have higher re-election rates. Donors are therefore more likely to support an incumbent's campaign, making it nearly impossible for the other candidates to have a chance at election.


In primaries, both the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) rarely introduce new candidates to run against incumbents. Thus, the current office-holder often becomes the only possible nominee.


We live in an age of uncertainty. Innovative public policy is the only way to address the most pressing problems facing our country. How will we address climate change if the Congresspeople who have been unable to pass successful solutions remain in power?


One of the most dangerous aspects of our democracy is the extreme influence of lobbyists, super Political Action Committees (PACs), and special interest groups. Since the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech, these groups have held the power to sway elections and overpower the voices of others through exorbitant campaign donations. ​​According to Open Secrets, 97% of corporate PAC money goes to the incumbent candidates because they are often established as easily-influenced. Therefore, I believe that term limits have the power to reduce the amount of money given to incumbent candidates, thus making our elections more democratic.


We are represented by the same people year after year. In the 2020 house and senate elections, 93% of incumbents nationwide won their races.


Senator Chuck Grassely (R-IA) is 88 years old and has served for 40 years. Candidates like Grassely have the name recognition, money, and power necessary to easily win elections. These kinds of Congresspeople do little for their constituents and advance their own interests by gaining committee chairmanships and seniority.


I, for one, believe chairmanships should be designated by ability, not seniority and fundraising. Term limits will allow the most capable lawmakers to have these positions while encouraging other members to do the same.


In 2019, 395 bills were passed in the House but not even put up for a vote in the Senate. Jeremy Gelman, a law professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, looked into these pieces of legislation. He concluded that the Republican Senate deliberately chose not to bring them to the Senate floor for a vote, in order to beat Democrats and score political points.


Moreover, bills are most often stalled in election years when politicians are more focused on re-election than their duty to serve their districts and address global crises. Congress members are forced to vote along party lines to ensure they are re-elected by their party. The introduction of term limits would create more acts of political courage.


Ideally, the US needs a constitutional amendment to ratify Congressional term limits. Amendments are nearly impossible to ratify, so in the meantime, I believe that we need strong candidates to run against incumbents in primaries and legislation to reform campaign financing.


Our elected officials are neglecting their jobs. Term limits would prevent our elected officials from supporting their own interests and force them to represent and support the people who elected them.