US Term Limits - United States Constitution

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 1996

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When the Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1789, it was without direction regarding term limits for legislators. At the time, professional politicians were unheard of, and the idea of someone serving for more than one or two terms was unlikely. So the Constitution did not formally address the issue of term limits, although it was understood that officeholders would limit themselves to one or two terms and then return to private life (1). With the advent of the modern state, however, came the making of Congress as a career, and thus the voluntary removal of oneself from office, as envisioned by the founders, is no longer regularly undertaken in the United States Congress. The structure of the Congress supports members who have held office for several terms thereby undermining the idea of the citizen-legislator put forth by the founders. Instead of citizens who will soon return to the community that elected them, professional Congress-people spend more time in Washington than in their home states, and usually make Congress their career.

What has developed in recent years, in response to congressional careerism, is the drive to impose limits on the length of time someone may serve in Congress. Currently, advocates of term limits are calling for two terms in the Senate, and three in the House. It is possible, then, for a member to serve six years in the House, twelve years in the Senate, eight years as Vice President, and eight years as President, a total of thirty-six years. It is not unlikely, therefore, that there will continue to be career politicians. The issue is not about total time that one may participate in government, rather it is about how long one may serve in a particular capacity. Term limits enjoy popular, but not political, support,