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The work of Congress members is one of the most responsible in the US. Politicians represent the political will of the people and serve their interests. However, in contrast to the president, who cannot hold the post more than two times, there are no term limits for either Senators or House Representatives. This aspect raises many concerns among the public and scientific community. The analysis found that despite some objections, term limits could improve politics in the US through eradication of lobbying, corruption, and the lack of political will to bring changes instead of searching political survival.
On the one hand, the opponents of term limits claim that the work in the office is a hard job that requires much expertise and professionalism. In the case of the members of Congress, two years could be a limited-term to raise knowledge necessary for exemplary service, not just acceptable. The same applies to relationships with colleagues. Congress with high turnover would have poor team cohesion, whereas individual members would not have the opportunity to create long-standing relations between themselves and elaborate on some joint tasks. Also, it is possible to assume that the current mechanism of re-elections already represents enough of limitation, which is a wide-spread claim among the opponents of term limits. Other scholars fear that often instances of rotation in Congress will decrease the quality of its operation. For instance, Bowser and Moncrief argued that term limits would ‘create incentives for short-term fixes instead of long-term solutions, and reduce the relative policy expertise of the legislative body’. Another disadvantage is that actually efficient and professional politicians may be barred from Congress because of the law. Hence, opponents suggest that imposing term limits would damage the voting rights of Americans, who elect a representative.
On the contrary, the fact that the term of Congress representatives is limited distracts them from the work since many politicians think more of political survival rather than responsibilities and duties. Moreover, not only incumbents are concerned with their political survival. Many lobbyists and political groups require the constant presence of their allies in the government to serve some special and narrow interests. Many supporters of term limits point to the fact that some representatives raised so much power that they became virtually alienated from their constituents (Murse). Hence, the introduction of term limits could decrease the scope of corruption and interference of private interests into policymaking, who treat incumbent politicians as the investment. Plus, politicians would have no time of doing side-business and would instead entirely focus on their affairs.
Furthermore, the lack of term limits supports the prolonged polarization of political forces in the US. The roles of members of Congress are quite established now, and with the same people in the same positions, re-election often turns into a battle of budgets. In that respect, term limits would stop ‘wasteful election-related federal spending’. At the same time, the absence of limits means the lack of ‘new blood’ in Congress, and, accordingly, the lack of independent or middle-ground vision. Moreover, those in public office may act with double-energy given the narrow time, and make ‘unpopular but necessary decisions without fear of retaliation at the ballot box’. Indeed, Congress often seems to be a dormant place, and few genuinely innovative bills come out there annually. Hence, such reform may indeed shake things up and bring the new wave of policymaking. Finally, another problem that the US political system has is a low voter turnout. Here, the interests of terms limit reform, and low voter turnout coincide. Many voters actually skip elections because it is all clear for them in their district and they believe that they vote has no real power. Term limit would encourage people to vote more and learn more about the candidates, thereby increasing the political culture.
However, while it is possible to discuss what option is better, the debate seems to be predetermined for some scholars. Rauch Jr. analyzed the entire history of the initiatives related to term limits and concluded that the very peculiarities of the legislative process prevent the introduction of term limits. In particular, the author mentions the lack of resources to rally support for reform, the high barrier of the support needed for the amendment, and, quite frankly, the fact that ‘the members of Congress will not vote for something that is not in their best interest’ (Rausch 41). Hence, the introduction of reform should stem from the people, so that the members of Congress would have no choice but to do their job – serve the interest of people.
Overall, it seems that the advantages of term limits outweigh the downsides. It will fight corruption, private interest, and lobbying. It will bring new faces to the political arena and introduce new ideas on the future of the nation, and it will overcome long-standing problems of the political system like wasteful political campaigns, polarization, and low voter turnout.
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