Today it seems it is often more important to federal Representatives and Senators to be re-elected than to do what is best for America. The country has become so polarized that Representatives and Senators often worry about the backlash they might receive from their constituents. It was not always so.
In the days of our Founding Fathers and early statesmen, Representatives and Senators came to New York and later to Washington, D.C., a few months of the year to transact the business of the United States. At that time, they were paid a per diem amount (per day pay) of between $6.00 to $8.00 per day (Link). That is not a lot of money which is why many of the Founding Fathers were well off compared to the average worker. That is the only way they could afford to serve their country for any length of time.
As time passed, people realized a per diem amount was no longer applicable. In fact, paying Representatives and Senators by the day could drag out the process and cost taxpayer’s a significant amount of money. Thus, in 1855, legislation was passed to give Congress an annual salary no matter how many hours they worked each day. That salary began at $3,000 and has been going up ever since. Today, most members of Congress receive an annual salary of $174,000 (Link). In addition, over the years special perks and benefits were added to the job which have made it very lucrative for many Americans who seek to serve their country in this way. In fact, the job is so lucrative you could make the argument that most members of Congress make re-election a top priority. That is wrong and what has to change.
There is another reason why term limits for members of Congress is imperative. Establishing term limits for both members of the House of Representatives and the Senate would go a long way toward minimizing radical partisan politics. It would be a check and a balance on the growing political power of both the Democratic and the Republican parties. Think about how most newly elected members of Congress are super motivated to go to Washington and do a good job for their constituents and America. Can we honestly say that remains the case after twenty some years in a highly polarized political environment? In time, the member’s party and holding onto power becomes the top priority. How is that good for America? How does that help solve challenges for everyday working Americans?
Change however is going to be difficult. We say this because it will require a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In today’s polarized political environment, the odds of this are slim. Nevertheless, we cannot give up hope and must seek to change term limits. If we can educate the electorate on why we need term limits, then perhaps it can become a reality. Let us begin with trying to agree on what those limits will be. Below are some ideas to consider:
Article I. Section 2., should be changed to,
- “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen,” every Three Years by a direct vote of the people in a legislative district. Members shall not serve more than a total of four terms (twelve years total). Age requirements shall be established by law as times change.
Also, perhaps if we extend their time between elections to three years, they may be inclined to get more work done and campaign less.
Article I. Section 3., should be changed to,
- The Senate shall be composed of Two Members from each state, chosen” every Six Years by a direct vote of the people in a state. Furthermore, members shall not serve more than three total terms (eighteen years total). Age requirements shall be established by law as times change.
These are out thoughts. What do you think?
Link, Devon. “Fact check: Social media posts get it wrong on congressional pay.” USA Today. Web. Published 11:37 a.m. ET May 6, 2020. Updated 11:58 a.m. ET May 6, 2020.