Term Limits Essay

1406 words - 6 pages

Term Limits

There is a movement sweeping the United States that state legislatures, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment, have the constitutional power to establish a new qualification for federal office, specifically, a restriction on the number of terms their congressional delegations may serve in Washington. The legal battleground covers two sections of the Constitution. Proponents of term limits will highlight Article I, Section 4, which they say gives each state the authority to prescribe the "time, place and manner" of congressional elections, therefore delegating to the local level the rules of who gets to run. Opponents will counter that such an interpretation of the Constitution is much too broad. They will also point out that the exclusive qualifications for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are explicitly set forth in Article I, Sections 2 and 3 - members of Congress must be at least 25 years old and citizens of the U.S. for at least seven years; Senators must be at least 30 years old and citizens for at least nine years; both Senators and Representatives must be residents in the state. Plainly, they reiterate, there is no reference to term limits. Opponents of term limits argue that Americans have always had the power to turn incumbents out of office - by voting. It's not that simple, says Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, the general counsel for the Term Limits Legal "Incumbents have such enormous advantages that it makes the whole notion of competitive elections a mockery," she says. "It almost takes a national temper tantrum to dislodge incumbents". Meanwhile, Hill points to the existence of one federal-term limit - the two terms of the President. "The nation has survived, indeed flourished," she adds. Furthermore, there is another benefit to shorter terms. "When you have open seats, women and minorities have a better chance of getting elected."
But the problem with this logic is that the 1787 Convention did delegate to the United States the power to establish uniform qualifications for candidates for federal office. The Constitution requires a specified period of citizenship, residency in the state represented, and attainment of a certain age. The Convention also established the length of terms for all elective offices, but voted against any limits on re-eligibility or the number of consecutive terms that would be allowed.
The absence of term limits in the Constitution was not an oversight, Proposals to limit elected officers to a specified number of terms were introduced at least three times during the 1787 Convention but were rejected, not because anyone deemed term limits to be a state prerogative, but because terms limitation would be redundant, For the most part, short terms would encourage more accountability than limited terms. In his notes on the Convention, James Madison records: "Frequent elections are necessary to preserve the good behavior of rulers. They also tend to give permanency to the...

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